Fourth Watch

For as long as I can remember, I have been a night person. When I was raising my children, I disciplined myself to be a day person. When my grandchildren were younger, I made myself be a day person so that I could support them in their sporting events and other school activities. For the last few years, I have returned to my routine of being up in the night, particularly during the fourth watch. The scripture supports that when we hear and see God during the night then we become rulers of the day. I have tried to describe to people what it is like to be a fourth watch person. For me, there is a peace that comes when daylight breaks. There is a sense that everything is all right, and we can go forward with the day. We have a right to ask God to let our health spring forth at the breaking of day. Isaiah 58:8 says, “Then your light shall break forth like the morning, your healing shall spring forth speedily, and your righteousness shall go before you; the glory of the Lord shall be your rear guard.” The fourth watch is particularly notable as a time for the Lord revealing his glory. The fourth watch is the darkest part of the night, but it also precedes the brightness of day. 

In leadership, we have to know our identity and our assignment. Do not allow your identity to become subject to the rituals and traditions around you, either by denomination or organization. I am not suggesting that you should not be faithful to your responsibilities with your local body, but I am encouraging you to understand who you are by kingdom identity. If you are a night person, ask God what his purpose is in you. Take time to study the watches and ask for guidance with your specific assignment. Understanding the watches places us strategically within God’s timeframe. When we become strategic, we are not just a presence but a force to be reckoned with.  Blessings, Dr. Kathy Williams

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On 9/11, I was a manager for public housing complex in Muncie Indiana. As I walked into the office building, I noticed several of the staff in the conference room with the large screen TV playing a news alert. I heard the broadcaster say that the twin towers had been hit. As a midwesterner, I thought they meant the two large poles on the top of the Sears Tower in Chicago. My first thought was, “How in the world did a plane manage to hit those two poles?” Within seconds I realized the reality of what the broadcaster was saying. Like everyone else I took a seat and watched the horrifying events unfold. The buffer zone of being hundreds of miles away from the actual event deprived me of the opportunity to put my day on hold. Applicants for the public housing apartments were arriving for their appointments and I was expected to go through my day. I went to my office and used the Internet to pull up a news channel. By then the second tower had been hit and the Pentagon had been hit. I called my goddaughter who lived in East St. Louis and worked in St. Louis and told her to turn on the news and begged her to stay off of the bridge that crosses the Mississippi River. I told her that our nation was under attack and because St. Louis is a major city, there was no guarantee that it was not also on the terrorist list. I wondered if there was anything about Indianapolis that would make it be one of the targets? It wasn’t long before news of the plane going down in the fields of Pennsylvania added another layer to the tragedy. I have often felt guilty for not being more personally affected. I have no relatives or friends or even distant acquaintances that were among the victims. I never had to witness bodies falling or smell the death or see the destruction. I never had to attend a funeral or send flowers or comfort anyone. In the years since, I have watched many documentaries and movies and news reports in an attempt to grasp that day. For years I have said that I am going to drive to Shanksville, Pennsylvania to the memorial and then to New York City to Ground Zero and then to the Pentagon. Somehow I always thought that would make my apology for being so distant a little more real and to honor those who paid the ultimate price for the freedoms I have on a day-to-day basis. When I write for 24K leadership there is usually supposed to be some sort of lesson to be learned or some nugget of wisdom to be offered, but I don’t think I know what that is just yet. 

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My problem with blogging

I noticed that my last blog was posted on March 23, 2017. By blogging standards that is pathetic. One of the main reasons that I started to blog is a recommendation that it will help me be accepted to become a published author. I actually find that to be a conflict of terms because blogging is based on shortness and authoring is based on longness. I tell stories when I talk and when I write and blogging is like asking me to do a television commercial instead of writing the sitcom. I am probably already over the psychological word limit of blog readers. Maybe they are the bloggee and I am the blogger? Maybe I will be back later today and write something that will grab the attention of the serious blog audience. Even the label sounds rather blah. Please pray for me while I finish processing this whole blog situation.

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There is only one of me

There is only one of me seems such a simple statement and one that few people need.  Most of us know about having a unique fingerprint and every snowflake having its own design.  The concept of identity could fill libraries.  The “me” factor is everywhere; however, if we remove the rest of the world, do you actually get it?  Do you know that there is only one of you?  What keeps you from embracing the simplicity and complexity of saying, “There is only one of me.”  Trust me, that this is going to be a positive conversation.  While we are surrounded by identity messages, we are also surrounded by the notion of comparison.  We need to be smarter, taller, faster, skinnier, brighter, prettier, funnier, braver, wealthier, and on and on into the oblivion of being either -er or -ier than someone else.  Isn’t it a bit comical that the same -er is used as a form of comparison between two or more but is also used as a word when you don’t know what to say?  Trying to find the definition of -ier results in the direction to look up -er.  Our first conjecture is that comparison leads to competition and, most likely, unnecessarily so for the good of those being compared.  “Your brother is smarter than you.”  “Your sister is funnier than you.” Who told parents that the way to inspire one child is to use the other child(ren) as fuel for the comparison fire?  I am certain that a psychologist could analyze what I have written thus far and charge me $75 per session for the next six months.  Rather than pay that fee, let’s you and I dig into this further.   What is the end goal?  The end goal is that you and I smile when we hear the phrase, “There is only one of me.”  The end goal is internal peace and a sense of satisfaction with the recognition that there absolutely, totally, unequivocally is only one of me.  By the way, did you know that the suffix -ly means a dispersed state?  Great!  That means that who we are spreads all over the place!  There is hope and ambition for the “one of me” movement!

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Prejudice and asparagus

It is my opinion that we all struggle with prejudice of some sort.  For me, prejudice starts with asparagus.  I have never tasted asparagus.  I have no intention of tasting asparagus.  I decided that asparagus cannot be part of my life.  In my mind, I have constructed a reality about asparagus, and it is simple – I don’t like it.  I don’t really know that I don’t like it, since I have had no experience with asparagus, but my reality says, “I don’t like asparagus.”  I have a lot of people that I respect in my life, but it does not matter to me which of them say, “You should try asparagus.”  My reality is stronger than their experience.  No!

As I think about it, I do not like spinach, brussel sprouts, or peas either.  In that situation, I have had experience of being forced to interact with each of those vegetables.  It was not a pretty outcome.  I had decided ahead of time that I wouldn’t like them either, because they are green like asparagus.  My choice of disdain was so deep that I prepared a gag reflex, drama at the supper table, and other tactics that made it appear to my parents that I had cooperated with their plan for me to eat vegetables.  In fact, the peas were in my pocket to be flushed down the toilet at a later time, or I had convinced my brother Bill to eat them when no one was looking.

Now before you judge me about me judging green vegetables, I have my disclaimer ready.  I do like green beans, so it isn’t like I don’t have any green vegetables in my life.  You can’t accuse me when I have accepted green beans.  Green beans are different than the others.  They aren’t slimy or long and stalky looking.  They are . . . well, they are green beans, and green beans are sort of a universal vegetable.

One vegetable we haven’t discussed is broccoli.  I hated it as a kid.  I didn’t really have to worry about it too much, because broccoli wasn’t presented all that often.  As an adult, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that I like broccoli.  At first, I could eat it if it as mixed in with other stuff in a casserole.  Eventually, I learned to like it just because of what it is on its own merit.  In fact, to give myself some credit, I have expanded my previous small-minded thinking about green vegetables to include spinach from Boston Market and peas if they are in a casserole.  Asparagus and I still have our differences, but I now recognize that the issue is within me and not actually the asparagus.  Maybe one day, I will take a chance and let asparagus be part of my life.

Perhaps vegetables are a lot like people, and they merely deserve a chance so that we can see that having them as part of our world is not as bad as we thought.  In fact, I hear that vegetables are good for us!

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Who have we become?

Everything about contemporary leadership tells us to be globally astute and culturally sensitive.  Experts say that we are impotent without the ability to respect diversity and to embrace differences.  Billions are spent on change management seminars and executive coaching and team building.  And yet . . .  the truth is many (perhaps most) of us have no tolerance of anything outside of ourselves.   Who have we become?  Have we become more civilized and in our quest for a higher order of thinking, have we lost the capacity for balance?

When I was a kid, my brothers and I would play on a contraption at the park called a teeter totter.  It is a balancing toy that allows the person on each end to trade places up and down, up and down.  Unfortunately, my brothers rarely enjoyed the balance aspect for long and instead, preferred to hold me captive up in the air while they sat on the ground on the other end.  When they ultimately decided to let me down, it was typically with a forceful bang.  At other times one of them stood in the middle forcing the two riders up and down, which caused the riders to forfeit control of the up and down movement.

That feels a lot like our society as there are those who refuse balance for the sake of banging the other person to the ground or playing the part of the third party who stands in the place that should result in balance and taking control of the ride.

Still thinking about some current events and asking, “Who have we become?”

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Walk Wobbly but Keep Walking

This is an excerpt from my doctoral project (soon to be published) The Seventh Dimension of Leadership.  Many years ago, my children and I were living in a housing complex in Indianapolis, IN.  In the middle of the night, I instantly awoke and heard, “You shall not die but live.”  I started praying and asking God what it meant (Psalm 118:17).  A few minutes later, I heard my second son screaming, “Mom, they shot me.”  I jumped out of bed and ran to the top of the steps to see my then 19-year old son crawling up the steps and leaving a trail of blood behind him. I pulled him to the top of the steps while believing that the shooters were inside of our apartment.  He was ripping his pants down to reveal multiple bullet holes across the top of his legs.  Do you remember the church mother’s admonition that above all, I learn how to pray and call on the name of Jesus? I put my hands over the bullet holes and started praying.  My son was screaming that he did not want to die, and the scripture that had awakened me became the banner over the situation.  In my spirit, I heard, “I will bless the Lord at all times, and His praise will continually be in my mouth.”  I strongly advocate that every believer has a scripture that becomes their anthem verse.  While there is obviously much more to this story, my son was transported to the hospital.  The doctors told me that they would likely have to amputate both of his legs.  I am also an advocate that your spiritual anthem should come with both verses and a chorus.  The chorus of my anthem is to blurt out, “We will see what the Lord says.”  My son walked out of that hospital 36 hours later with both legs that the doctors said would need amputation.  He walked out on crutches.  He walked out wobbly, but he walked out. 

One of the strongest encouragements you will hear from me is to look for the good and believe in miracles.  God has a way of showing up and showing out when we least expect it.  May I offer a little more detail about the night of that shooting?  For some weeks, prior to that night, I had tried to get another phone line put into our apartment.  On the day before the night of the shooting, the phone company finally came to install the second line.  Earlier that evening, I had started walking toward the kitchen to check the safety bar on the patio door, but “something” in me told me not to worry.  I walked away. As my son was crawling up the steps, screaming, I had grabbed the phone from my room and the line was dead.  The Spirit of the Lord told me not to worry.  As I held my son who had been shot, his brother came out of the back bedroom upstairs and immediately started screaming that he was going to “get whoever did this.”  I told him to shut up, go back in his room and call for help.  When he came back out, I said, “YOU are going to do nothing.  You let God take care of this. How many more mothers have to go to an emergency room or a funeral before someone says stop.  I told you to live for justice (explained later in the book).”  We found out later that my son had been shot two blocks away.  Because he had been shot in his upper legs, he crawled home.  He started to hide behind the bushes in the front yard but could hear the shooters looking for him.  He crawled to the back and found the open patio door. He tried to use the phone in the kitchen but pulled it and broke the cord (dead phone line).  That is when he crawled up the stairs screaming.  God had already put pieces of his miracle in place.  Let’s go back to the point of him leaving the hospital on crutches and find ourselves in the story.

Sometimes, we walk wobbly, but our focus needs to be on the fact that we are walking.  When it seems that something in our life is so damaged that it becomes subject to amputation, we must have a resolve deep in our spirit that defies natural logic and even scholarly information.  There must be a spiritual locus of control that takes charge and speaks loudly up over the voices of those who would say, “There is no hope.”  In fact, my son was not the target of the shooting.  He happened to be in a house where the shooters were targeting another young man, and my son was in the way.   Sometimes our life gets in the line of fire for something that was intended for someone else.  The damage is real.  The recovery time is necessary, but we can hold our head up and know, “I shall not die, but live, and declare the works of the LORD” (Psalm 118:17). 

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