“Very truly, I tell you, the Son can do nothing on his own, but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.”

—John 5:19–20

THIS CHRISTMAS “WHAT OUGHT WE TO DO?”

Beyond the ethics of doing the right thing, we must also show faith by having the courage to do the right thing. If we truly believe and have faith in the unseen, then we will not hesitate to do those “right” things, even if doing so might put us at some personal risk. Being bold in our faith leads us to do what God would have us do. A faith that if we choose a path for the right reasons that God will give us “A future with hope.”

The principal question of ethics is “What Ought we to do?” A simple question that when married with difficult situations can lead to complicated answers. Even simple answers to this question will lead people to have different answers.

When we bring Jesus into our thought process, ethics turn into Christian ethics. We then begin to ask, “What would Jesus do?” Again this sounds simple, but it is not. Competing with what Jesus would do is our natural selves. We have our own desires and needs. We need to pay our bills. We need to earn a living in order to do that. We want our worldly needs satisfied. Sometimes these needs will conflict with what Jesus would have us do.

I know a woman named Beth, who was homeless and fighting hard to regain her footing, so she could raise her child in a home like she saw other mothers do. She worked at a local Dunkin’ Donuts in a job that sometimes had her scraping gum off the bottom of the tables. Her boss was abusive and ranted at her throughout her shift. Each day she went back to her shelter with a little more money to get her freedom. On the Christmas Eve of her one-year journey in homelessness she left work and found a woman in the parking lot who was in need. It was a dark, rainy night, and the woman had not recently eaten and was rummaging in the trash bin behind the store. With what she had earned in tips that day, Beth took the woman into Dunkin’ Donuts and bought her a meal. She sat with the woman and listened to her story. On that rainy Christmas Eve, she drove back to her shelter wondering if she had done enough for the woman. Her principal question was had she done what she ought to do?

Beth eventually got an apartment and left her job, to work at a better place. The next fall she was able to put her child on a school bus for her first day of school. She was able to go to a job where she was respected. She continued to wonder if she had done enough on that Christmas Eve.

“We should walk on our path of faith, to explore the length and breadth of our inheritance. An inheritance that will heal and free us.”

Deciding what we ought to do seems complicated, but Jesus gives us a simple blueprint when he says, “but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise.” Regardless of our natural circumstances, Jesus tells us to act in a manner that we envision how God would act. He asks us to act without fear of loss, but through our hearts. We should not overly ponder the event, but to let our knowledge of God through our heart tell us what we “ought” to do. We should walk on our path of faith, to explore the length and breadth of our inheritance. An inheritance that will heal and free us.

Maybe this is the Christmas that we move our gift giving to doing what would Jesus do? Perhaps this is someone we know who needs a little extra help. Perhaps a piece of what we give, we give to a needy cause. This Christmas we will all have that moment when we have to decide, What ought we to do?

The answer is; What would Jesus do?

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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DID JESUS REALLY EXIST HISTORICALLY?

One of the questions I am frequently asked is, “Did Jesus really exist physically on earth.” Those who doubt need tangible proof that Jesus really walked on earth. Did he really walk among? Did he really say what is in the Bible? As a Doctor of Ministry, I can say with certainty that he did exist. Not because I want him to be real, but because he was real.

Historical information from the 1st century is much murkier than that of the 21st century. The internet didn’t exist. Great writings were not as prolific as they are today. As such, gleaning information about Jesus’s physical existence is much harder. Proof of his existence requires searching ancient records that are far more subtle than they are today.

This is compounded by two other facts, much of what was known was from oral history and that which was written, was only about the elite. Writings in the 1st century tended to be written about kings or emperors, the aristocracy. In fact, in the first century only five percent of the population could write. When they did write it was on material they may last only a few decades. Unless these writings were transcribed, they would disappear. So finding the truth in this quest is much harder than what we can do today with our own history.

If we discount what is written in the New Testament, can we still be sure Jesus really existed? My answer is yes! There does exist wonderful clues and writings that confirm Jesus’s existence.

We do know that Jesus existed from both Tacitus, at the beginning of the second century, a pagan historian, and Josephus at the end of the first century. Josephus referred to Jesus as a “yoke maker.” A reference to Jesus as a carpenter. Tacitus discussed the crucifixion in his writings, not only referring to Jesus, but Pontius Pilate. A non-Christian source of confirmation.

Dr. Gary Habermas wrote a book called the Historical Jesus. In this book, his research concluded that there are over sixty non-Christian references to Jesus. From writings of ancient luminaries such as; Tacitus, Josephus, Thallus, Phlegon, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius, Emperor Trajan, Emperor Hadrian, the Talmud, Lucian, Mara Bar-Serapion. Many of these I read during my formal education of obtaining a Doctorate degree.

Another clue in our detective work centers around the existence of a document now called “Q”. Q is a document that included a number of sayings by Jesus. We know this document existed as it was included in the three synoptic Gospels; Matthew, Mark and Luke, and other documents unearthed from archaeological finds over the last few centuries.

The three Synoptic Gospels were all written at different times, spanning sixty C.E to eighty C.E. Mark was written first, followed by Matthew and then Luke. We know that because of some similarities the content of Q is included in all three. The writings of Q also exist in other documents that are not in the Bible. For instance, the Gospel of Thomas includes a number of these sayings.

Christian writers who are not in the New Testament, also have writings supporting the existence of Jesus, such as; Clement of Rome, Diognetus, Aristedes, Papias, Barnabas, Polycarp, Ignatius, Melito of Sardis, Quadratus, and Justin Martyr.

While this evidence answers the question of Jesus physical existence, it is only a small part or start of our belief. When talking with those who doubt, this information is a start, but there is more. Jesus is not just seen, but felt. Feeling Jesus in our hearts extends his physical presence to that of a spiritual presence.

Just knowing Jesus existed isn’t enough for those seeking. It is from feeling Jesus. When I hear the question of did Jesus really exist, I know the person is the early stages of acceptance. Accepting that there is a higher force and a set of life values we can hang on to.

Accepting Jesus in our hearts comes from observing. Learning to discern what is coincidence and what is providence. The process starts with engaged dialogue, or prayer. Then watching and seeing the results. For some this will come quickly. For others, perhaps a lifetime. Ultimately developing a firm faith is believing in the unseen.

For some a crisis must first exist. For others, simply a prayer that is answered. But for all that seek Jesus, he will be found. Each journey is different. With different hills and valleys to wander. The eventual encounter with Jesus will be remarkable and deeply personal.

Sure Jesus walked this earth. But this knowledge is the start of our journey. Jesus is more than physical, he is spiritual. He wants not only our eyes to see, but our hearts to feel. Breaking down the barriers of doubt of his physical existence hopefully will lead us to the final answer. Jesus is God, whom we seek.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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HOW THE SERMON ON THE MOUNT CHANGED STEVEN COLBERT’S LIFE

One a cold winter day in Chicago Steven Colbert stood on a street corner, unsure and confused. Riddled with anxiety and despair with few tethers in his life. Left with a mother thousands of miles away and pursuing an uncertain career in comedy and theater. At the age of twenty-two he had rejected his early Catholic upbringing and became an atheist. But this day was different, it was cold, like only those from Chicago could understand. He had rejected God, he hadn’t become at peace.

Nearby stood a man handing out Gideon Bibles, the ones with the New Testament and two other books; Psalms and Proverbs. He gave one to Colbert. Who then opened the frozen Bible and turned to a page that contained the verse;

“Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing?”

Matthew 6:25

Reading this verse struck a chord with Colbert, it answered his doubts. In that moment he felt as if Jesus was talking to him. What he read became more than letters strung together to form words. He felt Jesus was talking directly to him.

In that cold moment of his life, he continued reading. He read the entire Sermon on the Mount, from chapter 5 to chapter 8, in the book of Matthew. He devoured the words and each sentence propelled him to a different understanding of life and his purpose. He was no longer confused.

He had gone to Chicago to attend Northwestern’s theatrical school. His goal was to be a comedian or an actor. Earlier in his life, his father and two brothers had died in a plane crash. Being away from home and still dealing with the death of his siblings and father had created a crisis in his life. At first he turned to Xanax, which provided no relief. He still woke every morning suffering from depression and anxiety.

Then he had his moment on a cold street in Chicago. We all know the rest of the story. His wit and humor has made him into a celebrity and an important political satirist. But it was the Sermon on the Mount that steadied him.

The Sermon on the Mount is three short chapters, from five to seven, in the book of Matthew. It was Jesus’s first public sermon. Jesus had been through the forty days in the desert, baptized and gained followers. This was Jesus’s coming out speech.

It contains such notable Christian values such as; the Beatitudes, the Golden Rule and the Lord’s prayer. No single section of the four Gospels contain more of Jesus’s teachings than the Sermon on the Mount.

A simple place to start, full of Christian richness. A place where we learn that the quality of our heart is more important than our deeds. A place to discover the real meaning of loving our neighbor. A complete explanation of the ten commandments and the will of God. It is all here. A strong reader can complete this reading in fifteen minutes, but it takes perhaps a lifetime to fully grasp.

We have other speeches and sermons we can read, like the Gettysburg Address or Martin Luther King’s, I have a dream speech or John Winthrop’s, City on the Hill. Or those from Winston Churchill or John Kennedy. But included in the Sermon on the Mount are the words of life, complete and sound.

Like Steven Colbert, we need look no further than this mighty discourse, for the answers of how to live as Christians. We won’t need those cold and gloomy days to look for direction. We will have with us a primer on God’s desire for our lives.

Perhaps when we finish we will be fulfilled or perhaps the illusionary nature of the world will disappear. Perhaps we will become like a rock on a shore that no longer worries about the pounding waves of life.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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“But for me it is good to be near God;
I have made the Lord God my refuge,
to tell of all your works.”

Psalm 73:28

GOD IS MAKING A COMEBACK

In A recent Gallup poll, ninety percent of American’s stated they believed in God. In a different poll by Gallup, ninety percent of all Americans support having “In God we trust” as a national motto and its inclusion on our currency. A remarkable finding in an age of political correctness.

Much has been discussed about the first amendment and its statements about freedom of religion. Some have used it to prevent prayer in schools, elimination of faith expressions in the work place and in municipal offices. But we are a country that largely believes in God. These poll results are similar to how Americans felt the spirit of God from decades ago and even centuries past. As a country we have long felt God a guiding force.

Specifically the first amendment states the following: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”

These few simple words make a powerful two fold statement. The first is that the country would not have a state religion, such as Catholicism, Methodism, Baptist or any other form of organized religion. The second; that the citizens of our country would not be prevented from having the right to practice their religious beliefs. In short, all Americans can practice their beliefs without interference of the government.

This inclusion made by our founding fathers arose from their knowledge of the past persecutions and wars that occurred in Europe in the 17th and 18th centuries. Our founding fathers sought to prevent this activity in America.

They knew about the Thirty years, which was fought in the century before the creation of our constitution, saw twenty percent of Germany killed. The Puritan revolution in England during the 17th century saw the only beheading of an English king and two hundred thousand Britons killed. These debacles of human loss were simply a fight over belief in Protestantism or Catholicism. Seemingly simple differences in belief that escalated into full scale wars.

Our forefathers knew this and sought not to define how to believe in God, but that it was okay to believe in God. Washington, Jefferson and Adams, the principal architects of the constitution understood that belief in God was good, but specifically by individual very unique. As such, offered our country the opportunity to experience God uniquely, citizen by citizen.

Over the last few decades, there have been misinterpretations of this part of the constitution. Which has led to pupils being suspended for praying. The sanitizing of religious statements. No longer is it okay to say Merry Christmas or Happy Easter. In our zeal to be politically correct we have limited the practice and freedom of religion.

This doesn’t mean that we should or must say to our Jewish brothers and sisters, Merry Christmas. It says we should be respectful of their beliefs. It also doesn’t mean, Christians can not say Merry Christmas to each other. It means we should be thoughtful and respectful. It says we should recognize that each individual feels God differently and responds to God with different practices.

Recently, in Florida, state representative Kimberly Daniels sponsored a bill to put “In God we trust” in all public schools. When the bill passed she stated, “I believe with all the negativity going on, our children need to know the foundation of what this country is all about and what it was founded on.” Her view of history and the creation of our republic is correct.

She further stated, “God is positive; I put that forth like that because people want to make God a negative thing; God is good. And God is the Creator; He’s the Initiator; He’s the Alpha; He’s the Omega, and our children need to see that because the eyes are the gateway to the soul.” And so they need to see that symbol, and it needs to be imprinted in their minds and in their hearts what it meant to the people who came to this country for religious liberty,” 

Florida isn’t the only state pushing back on the false interpretation proposed by some; other states like Arizona, Alabama and Arkansas have passed similar bills. God is making a come-back and our national voice is being heard. Spurred on by grass roots efforts.

We are a country that believes, “In God we Trust.” It is how our country was created many centuries ago. The vast majority of Americans believe in God and want our society to feel that this belief is acceptable. Not that it is politically wrong, because it isn’t.

This doesn’t mean we should be disrespectful of those who don’t. It strongly states we should be respectful. It doesn’t mean we should use religion as a tool of power to control. It means our belief in God is our right and we should be accepting of all expressions of faith.

But God is making a comeback, as always happens!

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Madison Kaminski

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SEVEN WAYS TO HAVE A JOY FILLED CHRISTMAS WITHOUT CONSUMERISM

Christmas is almost here! It is a time of family and remembering our past year. A time when we gather for get togethers and celebrating friendship and our families. An annual celebration for Christians to hand out gifts, prepare meals and shop.

But it can also be a time of stress when we wear ourselves out and drift into a Christmas of labor and not joy. For some it is a time of loneliness and isolation, a reminder of a life that is set apart.

Our televisions, radios and computers will blare with “buy this or hurry now and buy.” All serving to dull the real purpose of Christmas. A Christmas taken away by consumerism that exhaust us and create a false sense of Christmas.

What can we do? How do we slow down and enjoy Christmas? How do we create memories of joy that will be remembered and create a tapestry of happiness for all to remember? How do we learn that giving is far better than receiving?

Here are seven ways to push back on those things that distract our Christmas and create a joy filled Christmas.

Help one family member or friend

We all know that one person who needs a little extra care this holiday. Reach out to them this Christmas and show them that they are loved. Maybe take them out to a meal and listen to their story. Or perhaps give them a very personal gift that shows you care. Mostly let them know they aren’t alone.

Visit your local Salvation Army Bell Ringer

Find the place where a Salvation Army ringer is standing, ringing their bell. Put in a few more dollars into their basket than you normally would. And thank them for what they do for the world. Honor their presence as someone who is giving their time to make life better for those of need. Let them know you care.

Watch a Christmas Movie

There are many wonderful Christmas movies to share with family and friends that capture the true spirit of Christmas. During Christmas time put aside time to sit together and enjoy a wonderful movie. Perhaps watch It’s a Wonderful Life or maybe A Miracle on 34th street. Or a classic story of giving and not receiving; like A Christmas Carol and don’t forget the popcorn. There are many movies from decades past that capture the true spirit of Christmas and are fun to watch. Let this time together be a time of reflection and a gathering that will be remembered. Maybe even set aside a time for yourself to watch these movies to rest and experience expressions from the past of Christmas time.

Ask for that Your Present is a Donation

Perhaps this is the Christmas that you don’t receive presents. This Christmas when we are asked what do we want, reply, “Donate the value of the present you were going to buy to your favorite charity. I have enough, I have been blessed.” With so many in need throughout our communities it is a way of helping out those who need more this Christmas.

Visit an Assisted Living or Hospice Center

Many of those who live in assisted living or in hospice will have a tougher Christmas this year. Many will spend their Christmas alone and without visitors. They need to know they are cared for. Help them know that Christmas does exist for them. Many churches organize visits during this time of year. Perhaps your church does as well. Bring books or crafts. If you don’t know someone in a center, call ahead and ask is there someone who needs a visit.

Call long Ago Friends and Wish them Merry Christmas

We all have those friends we wish we could talk to, but seem to run out of time. This Christmas try calling friends from the past and wish them a Merry Christmas. Not just send a card, but say “I care.” Perhaps this will reignite a desired friendship that has been dimmed by time and distance. Maybe It’s one special person or a number of people.

Go to a Candlelight Service at Your Local Church

Is this the Christmas that you attend church on Christmas Eve and start a new tradition or perhaps continue an old tradition? In all communities there is a church that will have a Candlelight service we can attend. Music is sung with gusto and it is a joy filled time. The highlight is a church filled with candles lit one by one. The lights are dimmed and the congregation will sing Silent Night, a soul filled song with remembrance of the true meaning of Christmas. Words when listened to express the real meaning of Christmas.

This is our Christmas this year. Our Christmas, not to just receive but to give. A Christmas to avoid buying presents out of consumerism, and one to bring in the real spirit of Christmas. It is our Christmas to push past the ads and the exhausting process of making sure we bought enough. It is our Christmas not to worry about what we got, but what we give. And to remember that what we give with our time, many times is more important that what we spend.

This is the year we change how we celebrate Christmas.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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“O give thanks to the Lord, call on his name, make known his deeds among the peoples.”

1 Chronicles 16:8

 

IS CHRISTIAN EVANGELISM BAD FOR BUSINESS?

Many times while giving interviews I am asked, “Why can’t we practice our Christian values at work?” I reply, “Because of poor evangelism.” Christianity has been given a bad name in the work place, despite the fact that seventy-five percent of those who work profess to be Christians. Employers fear that openly discussing our faith, lawsuits and that alienating behavior will arise. Surely most Christian’s don’t want their behavior to create a lawsuit or to offend. But the workplace is suspicious. Too often the words they hear are those of poor evangelism.

There are businesses that openly support Christianity and are thriving, Chick-fil-a, Hobby Lobby, Tyson Foods or even Forever 21. But for many businesses there is a strong reluctance to hear or embrace the values of Jesus.

“Living a life through appropriate Christian behavior is the best form of evangelism.”

It is okay to have a Bible on your desk and to love your neighbor. Neither of which is forbidden in any employee handbook. But too often well intended Christians take evangelism too far and miss the most important ingredient in evangelism, actions speak louder than words. Living a life through appropriate Christian behavior is the best form of evangelism. Words don’t convert, it is how we live our faith that does.

“Over-zealous commands of evangelism, don’t create acceptance, they create distance.”

Too often, we meet that person who believes so strongly that they forget that their gift of faith isn’t one that can be bullied upon someone else. Too often, we hear views so strongly worded that they become commands and not ones of sharing. While most agree that dialogue is a two way street, there are those who miss the importance of mutual dialogue. Over-zealous commands of evangelism, don’t create acceptance, they create distance.

God does ask and desires for us to spread the word and to make known God’s deeds among the people. This is true and the heart of evangelism. It is with the delivery of the good news that some evangelists miss the point.

When Mahatma Gandhi was asked, “Why if he exhibited many Christian values, didn’t he convert? His reply was, “The message of Jesus wasn’t to humiliate and imperialistically rule over other people considering them inferior or second class or slaves, but that “when the hungry are fed and peace comes to our individual and collective life, then Christ is born” He wasn’t opposed to the message of Christ, but the way the message was delivered.

“Evangelism produces the best results when we walk the narrow path of servitude of our beliefs.”

So it is with us today, it’s not what we say or who we try to subdue with our beliefs, but how we live that produces real Christian evangelism. Evangelism produces the best results when we walk the narrow path of servitude of our beliefs. Words can change lives, especially when that are delivered with love and respect. Not all are gifted with the art of oratory, but all have the gift of love that should be shared.

“People are not changed by the turning of a word, but by the very actions they see.”

The hardest part of evangelism is not what we say, but what we do. When we profess to others our Christian faith, we are watched not heard. People see better than they hear. Our actions are evaluated and discussed silently. People are not changed by the turning of a word, but by the very actions they see.

The hardest part of being Christian is the requirement to not give into to our anger. To not fear scarcity, which restricts generosity. To not want at any cost. To not push for whatever we desire. When we rise above our human frailties’, we evangelize.

We will all fail by delivering actions that are opposed to those Jesus desires. We will fall short of our duties as evangelist. But real failure will rest with giving up when we fail and not trying to be better. Each dawn which delivers a new day, giving us a new day to try harder than the previous day. Real evangelism comes from our desire to live a perfect life that contains the values of Jesus.

Maybe someday, we can talk about Jesus at work.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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“Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ.”

Ephesians 5:21

AGEISM: CREATING A LOST GENERATION

One of my clients, John, has been looking to change jobs for five months. John has grown dissatisfied with his current industry and would like to work in an industry that has higher standards of excellence. John typically meets his sales objectives and is always in the top ranking of his company’s sales performance. In fact, throughout his career he has achieved close to two times the results of the standard.

It doesn’t take long when you talk to John to discover he is a man of high integrity and extraordinarily personable. He is a gifted communicator and executes his tasks at a high level. He is old school, customer needs first and whatever he does he does well!

Recently he had applied to jobs that he was more than qualified to perform and was denied. Not through a written form letter or verbal communication, but through silence. His follow up calls go unanswered and likewise his emails seeking status, receive no further communication.

When I first took John on, I told him, despite his outstanding resume and ability to work at a high level this rejection would happen. The reason, he is over sixty. Employers don’t hire people in their sixties.

More about John, he runs five miles five days a week. He is vibrant and many days works to eight or nine. His mind is fertile and flexible. He listens to learn and energizes those he works with. The perfect candidate. He is older and part of the greater societal movement when people want to continue their career well past sixty.

“Many people stay energetic and curious throughout their lives, never giving in to slothfulness or passivity.”

Too often I hear, we want someone young and energetic. But I always wonder, why is being young associated with being energetic. Many people stay energetic and curious throughout their lives, never giving in to slothfulness or passivity. Being energetic has little correlation to age. We either are or aren’t energetic, not because of age, because of our desire to perform.

When you look at the age make up of those who walk the two thousand miles of the Appalachian Trail. The age categories are those of either under twenty-eight or those over fifty-five. The percentage of those who start and complete this mighty trek, is the same for both age groups.

Looking further at the average stay at an employer by a new hire, younger hires stay a significantly shorter time than that of those who have more experience.

Those with experience have just that, experience. They know the right trails to take. They know that arrogance is a bad communication tool. They know this because they have experience.

In the American business place, which has made progress with many societal issues such as racism and gender, the older employee is still held back. The reality is that those over sixty will stay longer, have proven track records and be great team players. Perception of the aged is very different than reality.

“He himself had bought into the perception, because you are older, your skills are diminished.”

Another of my recent clients, Richard, was bemoaning the fact that his skills were so much poorer than his youthful counter-parts, making it hard for him to compete for promotions. When I probed his skill levels, I found his Excel levels equal or better than most. He knew R, the new database tool for Excel spreadsheets, when many younger employees still are learning R. He himself had bought into the perception, because you are older, your skills are diminished.

Buried in the book of Ephesians, we find today’s verse about how to treat each other. Treat each person we meet fairly and honestly, out of reverence to our Lord and Savior. Not to judge because of color, gender or beliefs. This also includes those who are aging. Fair dealing with all, regardless of biology.

What would Jesus say to those who ignore those who have aged? Would Jesus approve or disapprove? The answer to these questions gives us Christian’s insights as to our requirements when evaluating candidates.

Why not hire someone who will be an employee for many years past the average? Why not hire an employee with a “proven track record?” Why not get the value of someone who knows the trails? Why not hire someone who has learned the lessons of life?

Sure older employees aren’t the shiny new penny, but perhaps more valuable because of the wrinkles of their life.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

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“Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand.”

Matthew 12:25

ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND RECOVERING AMERICA

During the start of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln said; “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” We live in a similar time, of angry voices of those who seek to sway the court of public opinion, not through kind and civil debate, but through anger and acrimony. Lost is the art of creating allies, instead American leaders create fear amongst its populace.

Lincoln saw this in his time as well, angry self-interested people that propelled a nation to fight itself. Lincoln knew that no nation can stand when it fights itself. For any entity, whether it is a small family or a great nation, internal anger will always cause a fall. It is true in business, our churches, families and certainly our country.

What is remarkable about President Lincoln was he lived his own words. Many that he picked to serve with him on his cabinet had been political rivals. Salmon Chase, his opponent in his race to be president, was named by Lincoln to be Secretary of the Treasury. Chase had been a vocal opponent against Lincoln’s run to presidency, but Lincoln saw extraordinary gifts in Chase and appointed him. Lincoln said; “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

Lincoln was less interested in a person’s personal loyalty, he was more interested in their competency and loyalty to uniting America. Lincoln’s overall attitude was loyalty to our common cause, to our republic and to those who could help.

Lincoln was also a great example of the bounty America offers for the common person. He grew up in Kentucky and Indiana, the son of farmer. Lincoln never received a formal education and was self-taught. Lincoln didn’t like the traditional farm life and educated himself to become a lawyer. In his early adult years, Lincoln moved to Illinois and quickly became a highly regarded citizen, selected by a captain in his local militia at the age of twenty-two. Where he developed the nickname “Honest Abe.” Locally he was well respected.

Lincoln learned the pitfalls of angry division, as a member of the now defunct Whig party. He watch his compatriots fight over slavery and its involvement in the fight to make slave states out of  Kansas and Nebraska. The debate became so acrimonious that the party became defunct in the 1850’s.

Later, Lincoln became one of the early leaders of the new Republican party. But Lincoln had seen how unproductive and selfish debate could destroy an institution, not externally but internally.

We stand today looking at our national debate, not through the lens of what is right, but what’s in it for me. We only see the dirty laundry of our debate in the headlines, while the common person, not in power, wants civil debate. We are being held captive by those in power who have caused this division.

We have a congress where new incoming members, elected by their citizenry have asked for a change in leadership.  Both the leader of the House, Nancy Pelosi and Mitch O’Connell, have approval ratings in the mid twenty percent. However, the voices of those who are new has gone unheard. We will still have those in power who see discord as a way of life. Discord that threatens our country. Discord built on distrust for the other side and  whom is no longer able to listen.

Jesus, himself spoke twenty-one centuries ago about the dangers of this discord, when he said; “and no city or house divided against itself will stand. We are in the midst of a slow and painful decline caused by those who speak without concern for others. Those who speak without hearing. Those who don’t know, “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

The greatest thing about life is that we get to practice being who we want to be every day. Every day, we are presented with new opportunities to change lives and practice being the person God intends us to be. Every moment and every encounter we get this chance. Not be stuck in yesterday, but to create a brighter future for ourselves and others. Every day a chance to do something positive. I fully believe America wants this chance, not mired in the acrimony of the past, but a hopeful eye for our future.

Recovering America is both complex and at the same time simple. Simple in that we all need is to that of being captivated by being patriots. To put away our personal fights and become  enamored with creating friendships during debate. No point is worth winning if it creates acrimony. Victories won with disrespect are fleeting.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Patrick Perkins

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“All things should be done decently and in order.”

1 Corinthians 14:40

GEORGE BUSH; A LEGACY OF DECENCY

In 2004 I was fortunate enough to be invited to have dinner with George Bush and a dozen or so other corporate senior executives. We all met in a back-office meeting room of a large bank, whom hosted the event. I remember thinking to myself, amazing that I would actually be meeting with a former president. It was both intimidating and exhilarating. Nervous would be an exact description of how I felt.

I remember sitting and listening to Bush talk and being too anxious to ask any questions. I silently listened to the conversation. At one point, a bolder executive asked president Bush why he continued on into Iraq after the Kuwait war and wouldn’t that have saved a lot of misery for the people of Iraq and the world. Bush simply replied, “It was not what the United Nations asked our country to do. Our mandate was to free Kuwait. Both Colin Powell and I agreed to follow our orders and stop at the border.”

While some could criticize this obedience to the United Nations mandate, for me it reflected on who he was as a person. I was impressed that he took a tact of obedience that was respectful of his task and not to over step the wishes of other world leaders.

Later in the same conversation, another bolder person asked him if he supported his son’s attack on Iraq, knowing that Iraq had tried to assassinate him during a later visit to Kuwait after the first Gulf War. His reply to us was; “Both his mother and I voiced our disapproval to him.” While publicly he is attributed to supporting the invasion of Iraq, this is what we heard that night as a group. His point was that personal retaliation wasn’t a reason for creating war. There had to be a higher cause and support from the United Nation. He didn’t see America as a stand-alone nation, but part of a global community.

But there are interesting things that many don’t know George Bush. During World War 2, right after his high school graduation, where he was president of senior class, he enlisted and went into flight training. Ten months later he became the youngest aviator in the Navy and flew many missions. On one particular mission, his plane was hit by flack and his engines caught fire. He still completed the objective of his mission, turned the plane around, flew out to sea and safely parachuted into the Pacific. Later to be rescued by a submarine.

Bush went to Yale after completing his military service. Instead of graduating in the normal four years, Bush graduated in two and a half years. He was also the captain of the Yale baseball team that participated in the first two college World Series.

During the infamous Watergate scandal, he was the chairperson of the Republican party. He personally visited President Nixon and asked him to resign for the good of our country and the Republican party.

Serving our country, after building a successful oil business became his life goal starting in 1964. He was a member of the House of Representatives during the sixties and later was the Ambassador to the United Nations.

In 1980 he ran as a Republican candidate for the presidency but lost to Ronald Reagan. Regan later, picked him as his Vice-President. Despite Bush’s famous remark, calling Reagan’s economic ideas as “Voodoo Economics.” Reagan knew Bush was a strong leader and a decent man, someone he could trust.

This was played out during the assassination attempt on President Reagan. Bush was in Texas at the time. Upon hearing about the attempt and Reagan’s condition hurriedly flew back to Washington. Upon landing he was met by Helicopter One, the President’s military helicopter, and was told they would take him to the White House and land in the South Garden. He was next in line to be president if President Reagan died and the Secret Service wanted him protected at the highest level.

Bush refused and said, “Only the president lands in the South Garden.” There was no show of trying to grab power or any way of being disrespectful to President Reagan. After Reagan heard Bush’s remark it strengthened the relationship between these two leaders.

Bush did go on to be president for one term. During which the Iron Curtain fell and the country had fallen into a deep recession. Critics will say he lost the second election because of his famous statement, “Read my lips; no new taxes.” A misguided comment that proved to be untrue, as taxes were raised. Coupled with the state of the economy, President Bush was defeated by Bill Clinton.

For nearly thirty years Bush served our country. But perhaps his greatest life legacy will be the organization he started in the early nineties, called “The Points of Light Foundation.” Bush believed in volunteerism and our responsibility to help our neighbor. Through the years the organization grew and in 2012, Points of Light mobilized 4 million volunteers in 30 million hours of service worth $635 million.

Bush was also a devout Christian and his faith dictated his life and he would later say helped him through many tough times; including the death of his first daughter at the age of three, his time in the waters of the Pacific after be shot down and finally the death of his wife of seventy two years. During his last moments old friend, James Baker, told him he was going to heaven. He replied, “Good that’s where I want to go.”

President Bush was a leader all his life, from high school to the military to college to his business life and on in service for his country. He didn’t grab or take power, he earned it with leadership through decency and obedience to his task.

Like all of us Bush had his regrettable moments; like the Iran Contra scandal. But these moments don’t define any of us, only to show we are all less than perfect.

For those in that room that evening we only saw a decent person. There was graciousness and vulnerability in how he spoke and listened. He wasn’t pompous or arrogant, in those moments he was just a humble person sharing his life with us.

When I went to have my picture taken with him, he grabbed my hand and thanked me for coming. We smiled together, thankful for the time.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

PHOTO BY GETTY IMAGES: DAVID HUME KENNERLY

“Take care that you do not despise one of these little ones; for, I tell you, in heaven their angels continually see the face of my Father in heaven.”

Matthew 18:10

AN EVERY DAY PERSON CAN CHANGE LIVES

Jeanette called me recently to see if I could help a new acquaintance find a job. Jeanette had met Chris at a finance conference and was struck by his earnestness and sincerity. So she called, because she thought I could help. Typical of Jeanette to want to help, a woman with firm goals and an earnestness to live life helping others.

“Jeanette had the three traits all employers like; positive, trustworthy and competent.”

I had met Jeanette two decades earlier, when her career was just starting out. We hired her because she had qualities that we valued. She listened to learn, got things done and analyzed effectively. Jeanette had the three traits all employers like; positive, trustworthy and competent.

We were proven right, in meetings she took notes and answered questions simply, but to the point. You knew when she said she would have something done, you didn’t need to follow-up. It got done, without fanfare or expectation of a pat on the back. She just did her job.

“Jeanette represents the vast majority of the hardworking people in our work force that are the sled dogs of our country’s marketplace.”

Jeanette is one of those everyday people in business who go to work to do a good job every day. They don’t receive headlines nor are they interested. Jeanette represents the vast majority of the hardworking people in our work force that are the sled dogs of our country’s marketplace.

During my call with Jeanette I discovered another facet to her life. Beyond just seeking help for her new friend, I found out she had started a non-profit called The Children at Risk Advocacy Association. An organization that provides support for foster children and their families. Her non-profit helps with legal aid and representation in the courts for both the children and foster child families.

“ Social Workers would love to be better advocates, but are resource constrained.”

Many of the state agencies that care for foster children throughout our country have significant gaps in care and advocacy for foster children and their sponsor families. Most state agencies are over worked and under-represented. Social workers work long hours with little resources to help these children, while saddled with the paperwork churned out by a nebulous set of rules. Social Workers would love to be better advocates, but are resource constrained.

“Jeanette’s organization helps find a voice for these children.”

Today in our country, over four hundred thousand children are in foster care. Almost half are being raised by relatives. Many will never be rejoined with their families and spend a lifetime shuttling from one foster home to another. Spending their childhood with a lack of protection and a voice about their future. Jeanette’s organization helps find a voice for these children.

For Jesus, children were special. Jesus used children’s innocent and trusting ways as an example for us to follow with our faith lives. He borrowed the fish and loaves of bread to feed five thousand children. Jesus was stern in commands to not harm these innocent members of God’s people. Jesus had a soft spot for children.

“As a society our children deserve a childhood of bounty, loving parents and a stable home. Not all will get these opportunities.”

As a society our children deserve a childhood of bounty, loving parents and a stable home. Not all will get these opportunities. There are gaps to fill and societal nets to establish to work towards providing all our children with the basic needs of childhood. Jeanette’s organization is a wonderful start in childhood advocacy. Jeanette’s organization can be contacted by emailing  childrenatriskadvocacy@gmail.com ​.

It was nice to hear from Jeanette and to discover that her dreams of being a senior finance leader had been fulfilled. She gave me far more credit for her success than was deserved. Her success came from a morally pointed compass of someone who is always upbeat, positive and wonderfully competent.

It was better to hear that she sees her life as having a responsibility of helping others, whether it is helping an earnest executive looking for career guidance or defenseless children needing an advocate.

We need people like Jeanette, who live a different life than we see in the dirty laundry of our headlines. She is an example of the many wonderful people who work every day to pursue a career and desires to help those needing a voice. Jeanette would be the first to point out she is one of many.

Blessings, until next time,
Bruce L. Hartman

Photo by Charlein Gracia

We love giving credit to budding photographers to help them gain more exposure.