The Valley of the Shadow of Death

Such a cute Christmas lizard!

Yesterday was the seventh anniversary of the loss of our last family pet, Beardie.

I recalled that I had written something of theological value that I used in a Sunday School series I was teaching on the Psalms in the summer of 2012.  I wanted to illustrate how we can discover meaning in a passage through meditation.  I shared some personal discoveries I had made while meditating on the 23rd Psalm right after my son’s bearded dragon lizard had died.

Perhaps this brief reflection on this old familiar psalm might bring some fresh comfort to someone who has recently gone through or is now going through the valley of the shadow of death themselves.

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It was July 3rd, about a month ago.  I was out taking a walk by myself that evening, as my wife was out with some friends.  Minutes earlier, we discovered that my son’s bearded dragon lizard had died.  I had removed him from his cage, and had put him in a shoebox in the garage so that I could bury him the next day.  Needless to say, I was grieving over losing this pet that we had taken care of for over 7½ years.  He was the last of three pets that we had as a family here in Rolla.

The thing that I had forgotten about grieving until that moment is that it brings up other losses in your life.  I thought about our rabbit Pixie who we lost five years ago this month, our dog Boomer that we also had to put to sleep over two years ago, my father who passed away ten years ago last fall, and my mother who will have been gone five years this November.  I prayed for God’s comfort right then and acknowledged that I was acquainted with it from past experience.

About halfway into the walk, these verses from the 23rd Psalm came to my mind.  “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.  He makes me lie down in green pastures.  He leads me beside the still waters.”  Maybe it was because I was walking across a bridge that spanned a creek that ran under Soest Road.

“Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death”.  I began to meditate on just that portion. “Lord, I have been to that valley before.”

Shadow.  I had never really paid much attention to that word before.  It almost seemed that it would have the same meaning if that word was left out, “through the valley of death”.  Or would it?

Then, I remembered what causes a shadow.  I can only see one when something comes between the sun and I.  The “shadow of death” appears when “death” is coming, is here now, or is leaving my presence, and it comes between the sun (Son) and I.  I was amazed that I’d never seen this before, in all the years I had read this familiar passage.  Death’s visits are always painful, but temporary.

Another key word I noticed was “walk”.  I walk through this valley.  I don’t just sit there weeping, or lie on the ground, or stand still.  I keep walking.  And so does death.  Our paths may have crossed for a season, and I may be in its shadow, but I continue to walk.  And when I walk, I fear no evil, for He is with me; His rod and His staff, they comfort me.

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Each one of us will walk through the valley of the shadow of death at some point.  Remembering God’s presence as we work through our grief will enable us to press on.  We will grieve, but not like those who have no hope.  One of my wife’s favorite life verses reminds us, “You are my Lord; apart from you I have no good thing.”  (Ps. 16:2)  Our hope is in God alone.

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God’s Presence with Christian Senior Executives

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In my blog and my book, I have addressed a wide variety of workers.  As a former Soldier and civilian employee in the Department of the Army now, I have written on the value of those who hold these jobs.  I have also shared biblical principles that apply to artists, mothers, teachers, those who manufacture pallets, professional athletes, writers, students, and those in business.

One demographic I had not yet singled out is the community of senior executives.  You will find these high-speed, type-A personalities in business, academia, politics, and the military.  What does my unique perspective on the theology of work have to say to encourage these folks?

Let me unpack some of what the Old Testament patriarch Joseph displayed as a divinely appointed executive, share some of the struggles those in high-level leadership positions face, and summarize what I have observed in those who have integrated their faith at work well.

Insights on Joseph as an executive

The Joseph narrative in Gen. 37-50 is the best illustration of a young man who became a senior executive by the sovereignty of God.  After he was sold into slavery by his brothers, he served in Potiphar’s house, was put in charge of his own prison, and was second in command under Pharaoh.  Joseph succeeded everywhere he worked because God’s presence was with him in his work.  (See Gen. 39:2-3, 21-23, and 41:38.)  Joseph is one example of many of “Immanuel labor” – the connection between God’s presence and human work.  (For a reflection on how Joseph illustrates this idea, I invite you to read an article I wrote and posted on my blog.)

In Work Matters: Lessons from Scripture, R. Paul Stevens discusses the pivotal scene where Joseph reveals to Pharaoh the meaning of his dream in Gen. 41:16-36.  Stevens indicates, “Many people imagine that God cannot be found in high-ranking political circles or in the boardrooms of multinational corporations.  But Pharaoh himself says, ‘God has made all this known to you’ (v. 39).  Then, partly at Joseph’s suggestion, Pharaoh hires Joseph to be second to him to garner food during the seven years of plenty for distribution during the upcoming seven years of famine.”  God elevated Joseph to this high position for His ultimate purpose to provide for, to protect, and to preserve His covenant people.

Al Erisman, in The Accidental Executive, observed: “I saw how the events of his life prepared him for a position of leadership, how he dealt with success as well as failure, how he worked hard regardless of his circumstance, how he created a strategy and executed that strategy, how he dealt with temptations, and how he gained perspective on the purpose and meaning of his work.”  Erisman concluded, “The career of Joseph provides a helpful perspective for responding to our own vocational call.  While he wasn’t perfect, he kept his connection with God, worked hard and honorably regardless of his position, and brought a sense of meaning and purpose to his work.”

The challenges senior leaders face

Because of their position at the top of the food chain, executives struggle with many things that the rest of us may not.  The work of senior executives is marked by its own unique set of “thorns and thistles”.  Let me address just a few of them: pride, power, and fear.

John D. Beckett, in Mastering Monday: A Guide to Integrating Faith and Work, summarizes this well.  He states, “Pride causes people to set themselves on pedestals and look down on others. . . Pride justifies lavish indulgence.  Pride dupes people into illicit relationships, damaging marriages and families.  Proverbs 16:18, frequently quoted but not often enough observed, warns of the inevitable consequence: Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Another temptation that Christian executives often face is to misuse their power and authority for personal gain.  Given the lack of accountability, opportunities to travel, total privacy, and luxurious expense accounts that often accompany those in high positions, senior leaders in business, government, academia, and in other fields are tempted to make unethical decisions.

Fear is another common enemy of many senior executives.  They are often fearful of making mistakes or losing their job, which can lead to not trusting or micromanaging those under their leadership.  This fear can cause them to be anxious, angry, or overly competitive.

Each of these challenges can be addressed by applying our understanding of God’s presence with us in our work.  Christian executive, do you struggle with pride?  Remaining in God’s presence will humble you, when you see the depth of your own sinfulness and inability to do anything good without his grace and mercy.  Do you struggle with overstepping your bounds to selfishly control and influence others?  When you are aware that God is present with you, you learn to submit under His authority.  Are you fearful of failure or financial insecurity?  When you know that God has always provided for you, you can rest in His sufficiency.

What right looks like

Let me describe the kinds of things have I seen in the handful of men and women who have who have faithfully followed Jesus in their work and have succeeded at being senior executives.

I have seen a Christ-like humility.  These leaders understand that they are not in their position merely to make a name for themselves.  They serve those who work for them.  They ask them what they need.  They consistently express appreciation for the hard work to get the job done.  They lead, not boss people around.  They are compassionate.  They take time to listen to others to engage them in making decisions.  They take a genuine interest in the lives of their team.

I have seen them mentor those under their charge.  They recognize a teachable moment when they can share a story that will underscore a lesson they have learned to make us better.  They speak the truth in love when they need to confront.  They help their team to understand the big picture, so we can see how our combined efforts have contributed to the strategic mission.

Finally, I have seen these leaders set the example for others to follow.  They don’t ask someone to do something that they are not willing to do themselves.  They are honest.  They treat all with dignity and respect, regardless of their rank or position.  They keep their promises.  They stay late when the mission requires it.  They diligently support their own boss’ intent and guidance.

The impact of a godly senior executive

Allow me to return to Joseph for a moment.  I would be remiss if I did not mention the impact that his work (which was infused with the very presence of God) had on those around him.

At the end of Gen. 41, we see the results of Pharaoh putting a 30-year old Joseph as second in command.  There was indeed seven years of abundance followed by seven years of famine.  And yet, because of Joseph’s bold vision, strategy, and execution, the entire nation had plenty of food.  Moreover, we read that “all the countries came to Egypt to buy grain from Joseph, because the famine was severe in all the world” (Gen. 41:57).  Future generations of God’s chosen people were preserved through this famine due to the sovereignty of God working through one leader.

In the same manner, God still does amazing things through godly men and women who follow Christ and become servant-leaders in their respective fields.  It all belongs to God!  (See Psalm 24:1).  Just imagine what He can do in business, academia, politics, and the military by senior executives who remain in His presence and are conduits of His grace around the world!

I trust that these thoughts will encourage Christian senior executives to continue to pursue God.

Thoughts on the United States Army’s 244th Birthday

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Over the past week, I have attended three formal changes of command ceremonies.  I was also directly involved in planning one promotion ceremony for two senior noncommissioned officers.  Watching each of these ceremonies made me proud to be a member of the Army team.

As a Department of the Army civilian employee, I get to work with Soldiers every day.  I love Soldiers.  I used to be one for 20 years, six months, and seventeen days.  (But who’s counting?)  More importantly, I know that I am able to love God and love my neighbor by doing my job which directly involves taking care of Soldiers and accomplishing the mission of the organization that I serve.  So, on this day, the U.S. Army’s 244th birthday, I wish to reflect on a few simple things

Note: Two years ago I wrote an article on my blog about the eternal value of the work that Christian Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, and Marines bring to the Kingdom of God.  It was republished on the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics blog.  I also addressed this topic in chapter 13 of my book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession.  I want to expand a little on these ideas and present a few more thoughts.

The values inherent in those who serve

I have a tremendous amount of respect for those who serve our nation.  So much more is expected of Soldiers now than when I served on active duty.  I have first-hand knowledge.  I see the results every day as thousands of civilians are trained and transformed into Soldiers by dedicated drill sergeants, instructors, and leaders here at Fort Leonard Wood and other places.

Training is much more physical than it was.  Moreover, rapid advances in technology and equipment modernization have changed everything for the Soldier, including newly developed protective masks, weapons, vehicles, and commo equipment.  Constant emphasis is placed on Army values and ethical decision-making.  Many Soldiers still face long, dangerous deployments, which increases stress on their Families.

While things may be different than they used to be, there are still several basic Army values that have remained unchanged: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal courage.  There is more: attention to detail, discipline, resilience, and never leaving a fallen comrade.  These are the things that are instilled in our Warriors that have made this Army great for 244 years.

Let me offer my perspective from a biblical worldview on just one aspect that speaks to the intrinsic and instrumental value of what Soldiers do every day.

The eternal value of the work of those who serve

I imagine that most military personnel, especially those who have deployed, understand the value of their individual contribution to the overall success of the team.  If they don’t fix the trucks, they can’t roll out.  If they don’t process the paperwork, Soldiers don’t get paid.  If they don’t hit their targets accurately, people die.  They are trained to understand how the mission of their squad, platoon, company, battalion, brigade, division, or corps fits into the strategic campaign plan.

But I wonder.  Does the average Christian Soldier truly understand that their work contributes to what God wants done in the world?  Do they know without a doubt that their work as a follower of Christ serving in their specific military occupational specialty serves God purposes?  Do they know that the God of the universe is their ultimate Drill Sergeant or Commanding Officer?

God’s Word states in Psalm 18:34, “He trains my hands for battle; my arms can bend a bow of bronze.”  It states something similar in Psalm 144:1, “Praise be to the Lord my Rock, who trains my hands for war, my fingers for battle.”  The writer of both these psalms was King David, a leader of Soldiers.

These verses tell me that God is present in the work of Soldiers.  He needs them to be trained, individually and as a team, ready to fight and defeat the enemy when called upon.  Their work matters to God.  It also teaches me that God is present in the work of drill sergeants, instructors, and leaders who execute the training that God provides to the new Soldiers.  Their work matters to God also.

There will come a day when Christ returns and wars will cease.  But until that time, a strong offensive capability is one of the ways that God keeps peace in the world.

These are the reflections that cause me to celebrate this Army’s birthday.

Where is God When I Have Been Fired?

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I have been reading William Morris’ book, Where is God at Work? since last August.  His fresh perspective aligns so well with mine, showing the many ways in which God is present in various challenging situations at work.  In chapter 10, which I read this morning, he discusses the subject of being fired, which is not something I specifically addressed much in my own writing.  Let me summarize some of the points he makes on this critical topic.

Morris begins with recounting a talk he gave where he highlighted his work history.  He had marked one of the entries with a “jagged black line”.  He then explained to his listeners what he called “the low point of my professional life” where “my career at that firm was effectively at an end.”  He said that he did not see it coming, although he had not been enjoying himself there.

As I read his account, I could identify with what he was saying. I immediately recalled my own experience when I was fired as a church youth ministry director in July of 1985.  It was also a low point for me, one that I did not see coming, although I probably should have.

He acknowledges that it was “a horrible time and it changed me in ways that I’m still working out today.”  However, he also recognized that “it was one of the best things that ever happened to me professionally – without a shadow of a doubt.”  I can echo his assessment.  (See my reflection on how God worked all things out for good through my own job loss in an article on failure that I wrote in April for the Nashville Institute for Faith and Work blog.)

As someone who has gone through this difficult experience himself, Morris has deep compassion for those who have been let go.  He knows that “nothing can blunt the immediate pain for the recipient . . . it is as simple and as fundamental as being told that you are not wanted.”

Morris points out that there can be some “godly potential” for both the workplace and the individual with regards to a situation where someone probably should be fired.  He observes that when a person is in a job that is beyond their capabilities, this can become an opportunity to be “honest about why that person doesn’t have the skill sets needed, but also what skills they do have and in what jobs those skills might work.”  Morris continues, “honesty and empathy in this process can turn it from being something unremittingly awful into something which, while difficult, holds some potential for change, for growth.”

Morris also brings a biblical view to the subject of being fired.  He notes that Job suffered the loss of everything, which made him question God.  Job asks God, “Why me?”  Although God does not seem to answer Job’s question directly, He implies that He is God, He knows what He is doing and that Job just needs to continue to trust Him.  Morris indicates, “Job does trust, and eventually all is made right again.”

At the end of the chapter, Morris brings us back to his story about the talk he gave.  He drew the audience’s attention to the next item on his resume, which was circled in blue.  This signified “a job that had allowed me to recoup and recover.”  He pointed out that it was a job perceived by others as a “lower status job”.  And yet, “it was one of the best things I ever did.  It laid the foundation for everything else that I’ve been able to do since.”  It built his confidence.  Morris concludes that “God occasionally intervenes in ways we cannot understand and that may even seem painful at the time, but that turn out for the best.”

Once again, I could identify with his gratitude-filled conclusion.  I joined the Army about six months after I had been fired from my youth ministry position.  Ironically, God used this new beginning to bring healing and recovery to my soul, despite the fact that many (including myself) saw this as a step backwards.  It was also clearly the best thing that I could have done, bringing me to where I am now, thirty three years later.

There are no easy answers when a person loses their job.  However, knowing and trusting that God will provide for His children and that He will work all things out for good can give us hope, peace, and rest as we navigate the rough waters ahead.  After we land in a place of refuge and recovery, we will be able to point others to the God who lifted up our heads during our struggle.  We can comfort those who struggle with the same comfort that God gave to us.  (See 2 Cor. 1:3-4.)

 

Sharing Lessons Learned in Marketing my Self-Published Book

My book, Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Profession, was published by WestBow Press a little over one year ago.  Although it not a best-seller yet, I think it is well on the way to being a success.  I am seeing the impact of this book on the Kingdom of God, which is why I wrote it.  My unique approach to the theology of work is changing lives one person at a time only because it is solidly based on biblical principles.  Jesus said that His truth sets people free (John 8:32).

While speaking with a WestBow marketing professional a couple of months ago, I was greatly encouraged when she remarked that I was ahead of the pack.  She was surprised at the variety of creative approaches I had taken to put my book out there (which is what self-published authors must do).  She challenged me to consider some additional options in the near future such as advertising, podcasts, and developing a website.  I thought it might be helpful to other authors if I shared some of the things I have been able to do over the past year.

Giving books to strategic leaders

Before my book was published, I had decided to target key individuals.  Once it came out, I mailed copies to a few leaders of faith at work organizations, two of which had published articles I had written on their blogs.  I also sent it to a several pastors and seminary, Christian college and university professors.  Last October, I attended the 2018 Faith@Work Summit in Chicago where I had the chance to follow up with some people I had sent my book to in the spring.  Additionally, I was able to put my book in the hands of other faith at work organization leaders.  I also gave copies to three authors that I had quoted in my book.  I was ecstatic when I put a signed copy of my book into the hands of Bill Hendricks, one of the co-authors of the book Your Work Matters to God since it radically changed my life 30 years ago.

Soliciting book reviews

A couple of years ago, Bill Pence, who maintains the Coram Deo blog, had begun posting links to several articles I had written that were published on the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics blog.  I noticed that he also did book reviews.  Last spring I sent him an email, asking him if he would consider reviewing my book which had just been published.  He said he would, so I sent him a copy.  Last July, he posted an amazing five-star book review on his blog and also on my book listing on the Christian Book Distributors and Barnes and Noble websites.  A few months later, through a contact I made at the 2016 Faith@Work Summit, I was referred to Chris Robertson who was on staff with Made to Flourish and does occasional book reviews for The Green Room blog.  I met with him over lunch in Chicago in October, and he gave me a very thorough interview.  Shortly afterwards, he posted a very generous and detailed review.

Using social media and blogs

This is the easiest and cheapest way to put your book out there. I mention my book quite often on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.  I posted a book giveaway at Christmas.  When my book was nominated for the 2019 Christian Indie Awards, I asked friends to vote.  I posted pictures of my book in various bookstores on Instagram.  Over the last year I wrote seventeen articles for my blog; eight of them were posted on four faith at work organizations’ blogs.  I shared these links on all my accounts.  I also post relevant articles and memes on my Immanuel Labor Facebook page.

By the grace of God, my book was published.  By His grace, I have been able to get it in the hands of people who find it to be inspiring and who are sharing its positive message with others.  I believe that over time it will continue to reach more people.

What do Christian High School and College Graduates Need to Hear?

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This time of year, I recall the numerous high school, college, and graduate school graduations I have attended for each of my children and their spouses since 2003.  It has been ten years since my youngest graduated from high school and five years since he graduated from college.  Four years ago, I received my master’s degree.  Two weeks ago I attended my niece’s high school graduation.  These milestones are worth celebrating.  They are also opportunities to share some biblical truths that may guide these young men and women as they venture out into the real world.

One of the main reasons I wrote Immanuel Labor – God’s Presence in our Professions: A Biblical, Theological, and Practical Approach to the Doctrine of Work was to give Christians who are about to graduate some practical tools to help them to integrate their faith at work.  Let me share some excerpts from my book and two others.

Seek God first

Here are some insights from chapter 9 of my book, entitled Seeking God in our Vocation.

Jesus told His disciples “Seek first his kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matthew 6:33; Luke 12:31). . . How does He normally meet those needs?  God usually meets our needs indirectly through our jobs, which provide money to buy food and clothing for us and our families.  I see a very clear connection between seeking God first and finding the right job.

In addition, finding a career or job is always going to be a spiritual journey for the Christian.  Your faith will grow in the process.  You must spend some time in the Bible, pray for wisdom, and trust God to lead you.  He promises that He will. (See Ps. 25:12; 32:8; 73:23–24; Prov. 16:3, 9.)

(Note: For more on this topic, see the article I wrote two years ago which was published in the Institute for Faith, Work & Economics blog.)

 Examine God’s design

Once we determine to seek God first, when choosing a major in college or narrowing down which jobs to pursue when we graduate, we do need to do some self-assessments.  This involves examining how God has designed you.  He made you for a purpose!

I invite you to consider asking yourself these questions: What has God specifically designed you to do based on your interests, accomplishments, skills, and experiences?  What are you most concerned and passionate about?  What have others noticed in you regarding your gifts?  (See Proverbs 15:22.)

Hardy, in Fabric of this World writes, “We ought to take seriously the doctrine of divine providence: God himself gives us whatever legitimate abilities, concerns, and interests we in fact possess.  These are his gifts, and for that very reason they can serve as indicators of his will for our lives.”

Listen to your heart

A key step in this process is to listen to our hearts.  I do believe that is not always in our best interests to merely follow our hearts, without using the wisdom that God provides.  However, we should at least listen to our hearts.  God gives us godly desires when we seek Him first.  (See Ps. 37:4.)  I have often heard well-meaning Christians quote, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked” (Jer. 17:9).  Somehow, they have forgotten that New Covenant believers have been given a new heart (Eze. 36:26).  God gives us clean hearts.  We are new creatures in Christ (2 Cor. 5:17).  With this new heart, we are to trust in the Lord with all our heart (Prov. 3:5) and love God with all our hearts.

In Immanuel Labor, I counseled my readers to keep listening to what God says about your vocation.  It may change over time. . . Sherman and Hendricks confirm what I have heard for some time that “the average American will change careers—not just jobs—four times or more in his life! … He has designed you with a set of skills and motivations to do His work in the world today.  But His work may take many different forms in the course of your working years.”

All Christians enter into “full-time Christian work”

In chapter 13 of Immanuel Labor, I discussed the sacred versus secular divide, where we seem to elevate vocational ministry above ordinary labor.  This sub-biblical idea was described by Sherman and Hendricks in Your Work Matters to God as the “two-story” view of work.  It falls short of the well-established biblical principle that work is intrinsically of value.  I boldly stated that the popular opinion many Christians have held that worldly work was unworthy was clearly off the mark.  I emphasized that the things of eternity and time are both important to God.  He is present with us here and now.  All aspects of life, not just the religious, are sacred to God.  All who work to provide our  physical, emotional, and social needs are necessary for humans to flourish on this earth.

Sherman and Hendricks provide a powerful conclusion to this discussion:

“What ‘really matters’ to God is that the various needs of His creation be met.  One of those needs is the salvation of people, and for that He sent Christ to die and He sends the Church to tell the world about what Christ did.  But in addition to salvation—obviously a need with eternal implications—mankind has many other needs.  Just because many of them are temporal needs does not diminish their importance to God, nor does it diminish the value of the work done to meet those needs.  In fact, God thinks they are important enough to equip a variety of people with various abilities to meet those needs.  Furthermore, in meeting the legitimate needs of people, a worker is serving people who obviously have eternal value.  In other words, the product of the work may be temporal but those who benefit from the work are eternal.  So we find that whether or not the product of our labor lasts into eternity, our labor is full of eternal implications.”

I am hoping that these insights will inspire the class of 2019 to take their Christian faith confidently into their workplaces, schools, the military, or wherever God calls them to learn and serve.

Mentoring in Five Words or Less

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“Wax on; wax off.”

This well-known phrase was spoken by Mr. Miyagi in the movie The Karate Kid.  He was teaching his young pupil how to defend himself by giving him tools to work with in the form of disciplined movements that would become muscle memory and pay off later when needed.

I still hear this brief expression used in a similar context at my workplace occasionally.  Translated, I think it means something like this: “Don’t worry about the size of the project.  Stay focused on the basics.  Keep on doing the simple things right, and you will be able to accomplish the mission.”

A few positive words at the right time can go a long way to encourage someone.

As a civilian supervisor in the military setting where I work, I am constantly coaching, teaching, and mentoring.  Here are several other examples of short phrases I use often to get my point across, without having to launch into a lengthy lecture.  Approximate translations are in parentheses.

“Good job!”  (Keep on doing what you are doing.  You made a difference today.  I appreciate your efforts and positive attitude.)

“Next slide.”  (Used by me to signal that it is time to rapidly move on to another topic of discussion, usually away from something that could be perceived as borderline offensive. Originally used by my Sergeant Major in Korea when he was done chewing me out.)

“We have a great team!”  (I am grateful for the folks I get to work with every day.  We work well together and get the job done.)

“Army strong!”  (It’s time to be mentally tough in the face of stressful situations.  My former NCO in charge said this one to me often.)

“Backbone!”  (I say this one word to young and old NCOs alike, to remind them that they are the backbone of the Army.)

“You got this.”  (I completely trust you.  I am here to help if needed, but I know you will be able to make this happen to standard.)

“Thanks for what you do.”  (You may not see it, but your efforts have supported and defended the Constitution today.)

This last one is from my wife, in the context of interacting with exasperated fellow preschool teachers.

“That’s life with kids!”  (Lighten up! Give them a break.  They are only children.  Lower your expectations and be patient.)

I encourage you to try to mentor others on your team, those above you, below you, and next to you, with a few positive words.  Sometimes less is more.