Choosing Joy

Try to guess what ails me.  You won’t see it because it is inside of me.  From outward appearances, I look good (if I do say so myself).  Yet I ache, all the time, from an injury that shattered my femur, the largest bone in the human body.  Surgery, a metal rod with screws, and a metal band put me together.  Four months of rehab and therapy bring me today—about 85% of my former self.  My final doctor visit tells me “this is as good as it is going to get.”  It is now a time of ongoing ache, back pain, and fatigue, as well as a little hitch in my step that those closest to me see, especially when I am tired.

This has been a year of lessons for me.  The first relates to what we cannot see.  I no longer look at people the same.  They may look just fine on the outside, but “you cannot tell a book by its cover.”  I have come in contact now with many people with hidden physical, emotional, or mental hurts in their lives.  Most simply go about life without complaint.  They might easily be judged by external appearances, but they carry burdens most would never want to bump into during life.  So, I have learned that most people carry hidden burdens which require my grace in how I might interact with them.

The second lesson I have learned deals with personal choices about my “lot in life.”  I could choose to be bitter, vindictive, a constant complainer to everyone who would listen.  But I have chosen to not talk about my situation, except on occasions with those who are close to me and understand my daily feelings.  Otherwise, you won’t know my internal aches, pains, and mental state that comes from being as “good as I am going to get” after this devastating accident.

I have chosen this because of my faith and in echo with the Apostle Paul “to be content in whatever state of being I find myself.”  I trust God daily for the strength I have and the situation I am in.  I know he was there with me at the moment of my accident, the surgery, the recovery, the long and distressing days of rehab, and now everyday—he knows my frame and I trust that by faith.  I choose to believe God’s good will ultimately prevails in what I experience each day.

Charles W. Naylor, a practical theologian out of my own faith tradition, wrote a book “The Secret of the Singing Heart.”  This book has been encouraging to me—and I think it might be to you also—in this new season of my life.  Naylor was injured in the prime of his career as an evangelist.  He was traveling around the country in the early part of the 1900s.  He was sought after for the power of his teaching and preaching.  Life couldn’t have been better.  But, he was injured in an accident that left him confined (I use that word literally of this period of time) for the next 41 years.  Yet, in time, he saw that he had a choice to make about life; he chose it to be one of optimism and living faithfully, even from a darkened room where he lay day after day.  He changed lives of those who came and sat with him.  He believed in life, goodness, and the present we all must encounter.

Naylor once wrote, “Long ago I determined to be happy.  I determined to be happy no matter what happened and no matter what condition I might be in or what my circumstances might be.”  What are the circumstances of your own life?  What choices are you making about them?  What prejudices and judgments might you make of others when you do not know their “lot in life?”  Fellow life pilgrims, I invite you to choose grace as we live with each other.  I invite you to extend grace to others when you encounter them who do not appear as you might want.  You will never guess the ailments of most people, but if we extend grace to them we might lift another human’s burden, even if it just be for a moment.  And I hope you, too, choose to live well in the circumstances you find in your own life.  Choose to live with joy at what is present with you.  Make the best of what is happening in your day today so that you might experience potentially brighter tomorrows.

Blessings for you this day. Grace and Peace.

David Neidert

A Model for Reconciliation

My mother passed away on November 7, 2010.  She was a wonderful woman, as witnessed by hundreds who came to her funeral.  As my brother, sister, and I reflected on her life during her funeral, I penned the following.  I give it to those interested as a means for reflecting on your own life.  Blessings as you read this tribute.

A Tribute to Mom (from a son, David Lynn)

At the funeral of V. Patricia Neidert 

            Each of us, as grown children, experienced mom in different ways.  Mine was as a student of the Bible, which I have studied for the past thirty years of my life.  Mom loved to talk about the Bible.  It was important to her.  You could often find us perched on the bar stools in the homestead family room talking about it or engaging each other over the telephone about its place in our lives and faith.

            Living out her faith was like breathing for mom.  She may not have understood all the intricate nuances of the Bible or theology, but one element she understood instinctively was reconciliation; repairing broken things.

            Mom often worked behind the scenes to fix broken relationships. She didn’t always have it right, but she wanted friends and family to work together to repair what might be broken in the world or in their personal lives.

            Her whole life she tried to reconcile a broken place in her own experience by finding her birth family, which she never achieved.  It was an ongoing desire that never was quenched.  It was in that struggle, I think, that she somehow found in her daily life the connection for modeling and pursuing avenues for restoring broken relationships to wholeness wherever she encountered them.  Brokenness was something she personally knew.

            Restoration is sometimes hard, painful, and not easy, but mom knew it was worth the work and effort.  Because she loved the teaching of the Bible, she knew that in Christ we can be restored to wholeness.  That is the message of all scripture and one that mom understood well.

            While mom may not have understood theology, she knew sometimes we have to stand and fight for right, justice, and restoration; and challenged friends and family to do the same.

            The text of 2 Corinthians 5: 17-21 is about the ministry of reconciliation; to be ambassadors of Christ.  While she may not have known it, this scripture is central to us as believers.  It reads:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 20 We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin[a] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (TNIV)

            Mom sometimes simply shared about her faith and reconciliation, but always taught it and lived it out by example.  She wasn’t perfect (the only perfect things were her three children; if you spent any time with her, she would tell you that.  In the hospital, she introduced me again and again to nurses and aids.  She did the same with my brother and sister).  But mom tried to fix brokenness in family, friends, the RISK program at Green Local Schools (a program for teens) and in the church.  She knew the emotion in her own life of brokenness; somehow it may have helped her understand why it is important for all of us as human beings to be restored.

            We will honor her life in the days to come if we enter the primary relationship of all; the one we are invited to accept with Christ, who restored all humanity and the universe to God.

            That is what mom would have wanted all of us to know today.  We can be restored to God through Christ and become part of a ministry she modeled and held dear.  Brokenness fixed; wholeness coming to life.

            Her body in the end was broken; now it is whole.  That is the ultimate gift of God through Christ.  A hope she knew that would be reality as she experienced Christ face to face.

            Mom would have wanted one final prayer and blessing for you all on this day.  It comes from Paul’s writing in 2 Corinthians 13:14:

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (TNIV)

Pay It Forward Customer Service

                Serving others is not all that complex. We make it harder than it really is. I’ve seen flow charts, graphs, and PowerPoints explaining the “ins and outs” and “does and don’ts” of customer service.  I will admit, as a trainer during my life, I have drawn a few of these charts and explained others myself.  It is useful to know the structures and what makes for effective customer service.  But eventually we make customer service about techniques and at times gimmicks, instead of considering it is about relationships and being human toward each other.

                In over two decades, I have trained 20,000 people through the college classroom, community seminars, one-on-one opportunities, and through the written page.  I have come to a place of now knowing what brings lasting customer service.  I call it “pay it forward” customer service.

                This relationship with people is based on only two points: remembering you will die and extending the grace you have been given in your life.  These two points are human relationship focused, not a lot of techniques in them.  Just two simple principles to remember and practice.  Let me explain both because while they seem ridiculous and maybe too naïve, they require courage and a way of being and becoming that demands our best efforts.

                Remembering you will die.  Why this as a principle, you might wonder?  Remembering we will die keeps us from forgetting that most of what we get upset about in life doesn’t matter.  There are some things that are really important like family, friends, faith, justice and other matters, but most of what we experience day-by-day will have no value in the scope of eternity.  By remembering to focus on the big stuff and letting the trivial go helps us to live a bit more peacefully and with evenness.  If we can remember the little inconveniences of life will not matter tomorrow (and help others keep all things in perspective, too) we may find places of connection with people that are not technique driven.  Through keeping a proper perspective about issues of life, we can focus on the relationships and not the quirks of broken tools, seams that come undone on a blouse, food that is under or over prepared, a billing that isn’t quite right, and a thousand more inconveniences which often frustrate our lives.  Knowing we will die keeps perspective—what matters and what will be forgotten in a few hours or days.

                Extending grace to others just as you have received grace.  ALL of us—EVERY ONE–has received grace, unmerited kindness or favor, at a point in our lives.   Maybe someone said, “Oh, that’s okay…we will let it slide.”  Or, “that’s okay, we all have bad days.”  Or maybe, “that’s alright; it can happen to anyone.”  We have ALL been given grace at some moment in our lives for an act that was less than stellar.  If we remember this experience and feeling as we engage others, we can make current circumstances potentially better in how we relate to people.  If we could simply recall our own attitudes, mindsets, and behaviors at the time of encountering another person with a “poor attitude” and the grace that might have been extended to us in similar situations, then we might actually make a happenstance better—paying the grace we received forward to the person standing in front of us.

                Customer service is ultimately about relationships.  It is about building solid relationships with people that brings ongoing connection to our organizations and companies over time.  Customer service based solely on technique or campaigns will only work until another technique or campaign becomes more appealing to the client from another enterprise.  Relationships built on perspective and grace, however, can last a lifetime and weather the most unnerving of situations.

                Serving people doesn’t have to be all that hard.  We just make it hard because we forget to keep it all in perspective and we withhold the grace given us from another person.  Pay it forward customer service is about being human, filled with graciousness, and knowing that in the end, most of what actually frustrates us doesn’t matter in the scheme of the really critical life and world issues.

                Blessings, grace and peace to you—personally—as you try to become a person who is full of grace and one who keeps all of life in perspective.  You will be different, you can make the world around you different, and you can pay that forward to others, too, who will also be different in time.  A world based on proper perspective and grace….just consider the possibilities.

David Neidert