Devotions, Retail Ready, Workforce

The Beaded Reindeer

Read: Matthew 7:7-27

“If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.”

James 1:5

It was a warm, mid-August afternoon and I had spent the better portion of my day standing at the checkout counter unpacking Christmas merchandise.  I’m not certain whose idea it was to start Christmas this early, but several other stores had begun putting their product on display in July, so I suppose we were just keeping up with the flow.

While I was able to clearly identify most of the product I was labeling, there was one item which baffled me.  Long, twisted gold wires with bright red, green, and gold beads created quite an elaborate and sparkly, but indefinable figure.  Upon closer examination, I was able to determine that it was some sort of standup decoration, but even once I’d sorted out which side was “up” (this task was not as easy as one might have hoped), I wasn’t wholly certain what it was.

The curly cues at the back of what I assumed was the head might, perhaps, be antlers, but that seemed unlikely given the doggish shape of the head (complete with a gold beaded nose that made it really hard to tell whether it was a dog or maybe a seal). Then, there were the feet.  Long and fat, they flopped forward for half the body length of the strange creature, making it look like some sort of deformed rabbit.

I turned the creature over in my hands several times.  “What exactly is this supposed to be?”

My manager gazed at it closely for a moment or two and then announced “It’s a deer.  See the antlers.”

I frowned, wondering how she could identify the “thing” with such certainty.

It was at this point that she explained that the catalogue from which she had ordered had not contained any pictures of the product, just descriptions – including one for a “Beaded Reindeer.”

Unfortunately, many times in this world we find ourselves in the same predicament as my manager, being promised one thing and receiving something entirely different instead.  Sometimes these discrepancies are small and inconsequential, but at other times, they can make the difference between life and death.  Fortunately, God doesn’t cut corners on the details.  We can rest assured that He will provide exactly what He has promised… every time!

Challenge:  While we only see pieces of the puzzle, God sees the whole picture.  This vantage point makes Him uniquely qualified to make unconditional commitments to His children… and we can be certain that He will do exactly what He has promised!  The next time you feel tempted to worry, spend a moment in prayer.  Then, commit to trust Him, regardless of your circumstances!

Today’s devotion was excerpted from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce” available in print for $9.99 or on Kindle for $7.99.

Standard
Devotions, Retail Ready, Workforce

My Sparkling Personality

Read: Exodus 34:29-35

“For we are made partakers of Christ, if we hold the beginning of our confidence stedfast unto the end; While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts.”

Hebrews 3:14-15a

“What is it about Christmas decorations,” I asked, shaking a sugar covered wreath that I had found lying on a shelf, “that requires them to consist of all these little sparkles and things that are destined to fall off all over your carpet every time you touch them?”

“Guess it’s just more festive that way,” my coworker suggested, grinning and shrugging her shoulders.  “It does seem to get everywhere, doesn’t it?”

After a day of merchandising the product, I could easily affirm her statement.  It seemed that the more time I spent with the decorations, the more I had begun to look like one, myself.  The glitter coated my clothes, my face, my hair, and was even inconveniently stuck between my toes.  I attributed my magical glow to “my sparkling personality” and let it go at that, but I couldn’t help feeling that everyone who passed was taking note of my strikingly festive appearance.  Everyone knew where I had been and what I had been doing!

Scripture tells us that, spending time with Christ should have much the same effect as spending time with Christmas decorations – the more we are with Him, the more we will look like Him.  As His Spirit fills us, we will begin to conform more and more to His image and will – leading others to take note of who we are and in whose presence we have been!

Challenge: Are you spending time with God through prayer and the study of His Word?  If not, commit to making time in His presence a regular part of your life.  The more you are with Him, the more like Him you will become!

Today’s devotion was excerpted from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce” available in print for $9.99 or on Kindle for $7.99.

Standard
Devotions, Retail Ready, Workforce

The Headless Santa

Read: Acts 9:1-22

 

“And straightway he preached Christ in the synagogues, that he is the Son of God. But all that heard him were amazed, and said; Is not this he that destroyed them which called on this name in Jerusalem, and came hither for that intent, that he might bring them bound unto the chief priests? But Saul increased the more in strength, and confounded the Jews which dwelt at Damascus, proving that this is very Christ.”

Acts 9:20–22

 

Decorating a store for Christmas has always been one of my favorite tasks.  There is something wonderful about arranging displays of garland and ornaments, “fluffing” artificial trees, and adorning everything with multi-colored blinking lights.  I feel inspired, even worshipful as I place each nativity on the shelf.  Every now and then, however, someone comes up with a unique decoration idea that may not convey the spirit of the holiday as well as one might hope.

“Are you actually hanging a Christmas tree upside down from the ceiling?”  I asked.  I knew my tone was a bit incredulous, but it isn’t every day that one’s manager is seen trying to strap inverted objects to the roof of a greenhouse.

“Yes,” she replied, as though hardly thinking such an answer was necessary.

I watched with interest for a moment then asked the only question I could think of, the only one that made any sense given the situation, “Why?”  

“‘Cuz I feel like it,” she replied, retrieving the roll of wire which was balanced atop her ladder and beginning to secure the bottom part (and only the bottom part) of a Santa Claus to the tree.

“You know, it’s the wrong holiday for headless things,” I observed.

“I know,” she replied, grinning mischievously. 

For the next hour, my manager worked quietly, eventually wiring on Santa’s head, though it still hung rather precariously from his body.  “You know, that wire won’t hold and Santa’s head is going to fall off in front of some little kid and scar him for life,” I warned.  “He’ll live in mortal terror of Santa Claus!” 

While Santa never did lose his head, I wasn’t amiss in my belief that past experiences, especially traumatic ones, can often affect the way we respond to people or situations in the present.  Scripture, however, teaches that previous experience is not always the best guide.  While we should not be naïve, expecting to see change everywhere, we also shouldn’t be so set in our beliefs that we anticipate the same results in every situation.  God still performs miracles, just as He did with Saul!

 

Challenge: Are you allowing your experiences with certain people or situations to dictate the way you react to similar circumstances in the present?  If you are, commit to weighing each situation honestly and allowing room for God to work.

Today’s devotion was excerpted from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce” available in print for $9.99 or on Kindle for $7.99.

Standard
Devotions, Retail Ready, Workforce

This Little Light of Mine

Read: Matthew 5:13-16

 “Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

1 Peter 2:12

One of my favorite Christmas tasks was getting the toy department ready.  I took a particular liking to the baby toys: things that light up and shake and sing songs and spin and flip and spring.  In fact, I was teased quite a bit because my interest in playing with these toys oft times exceeded the interest of the very children for whom they had been designed.

The fascination which I felt with the “three and under” category did not frequently extend to the rest of the department, so it came as a bit of a surprise when one of the “six and over” toys caught my attention.  It was a three foot licorice whip type protrusion which extended from a hard, glittery handle in yellow, pink, orange or green.  When batteries were placed inside of the handle, this extension lit up, producing a glow quite similar to that of a table lamp.  Despite the apparent uselessness of the device, I couldn’t resist the urge to play with it.  First, I tried using it as a sparkler, whipping it around and writing things in the air.  Then, I tried using it as a flashlight to look beneath my manager’s desk (nothing terribly exciting down there).  Finally, I tried some make believe fencing moves with it.  I was hooked.  This was clearly one of the best toys ever invented!

I quickly decided that there was absolutely no way that such a device could stay on the shelf as a display (since no one would have any idea what to do with something labeled “Glo-Wand”) and began carrying one around with me to show off to the other employees.  I do believe that most of them were rather frightened when I emerged from behind shelves and boxes, whipping the lithe plastic tube through the air in as menacing a fashion as I could manage.

During the afternoon when I carried it, however, something interesting struck me: when I was out in the store beneath the florescent lighting, you could barely tell that it was turned on, but when I walked back into a dark corner of the warehouse, the little device let out as much light as Yankee Stadium!  Its light seemed to increase as the darkness increased!

Similarly, as God’s children our light shows up best in the darkest places.  While Christians need to spend time in each other’s company, it is when we are in the company of those who do not yet know Jesus that our lives shine the brightest!

Challenge: Are there some “dark places” where you live, work, or go to school?  Commit to spend some time to bringing light to them!  Volunteer at a local homeless shelter or food bank, take an unsaved co-worker to lunch, or stop by the home of a shut-in.  You’ll be surprised at how much a “little light” can brighten someone’s day!

Today’s devotion was excerpted from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce” available in print for $9.99 or on Kindle for $7.99.

Standard
Retail Ready

Book Signing this Friday!

From 2-5 PM on January 4th, A.C. Gheen will be signing copies of her book, Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce, at Hastings Books (540 E. 17th St, Idaho Falls, ID).

Retail Ready features a selection of daily meditations based upon the difficult and downright wacky experiences of a retail worker.  Each day’s devotion includes a Scripture reading, memory verse, and lifestyle application challenge to help teens learn to better integrate the teachings of the Bible with their daily lives.  Readers are encouraged to approach their job with purpose, intention, and a good dose of humor!

A. C. has worked as a cashier, freight worker, retail sales clerk, buyer, event caterer, elected official, and Staff Assistant to a U.S. Senator.  Her eight years in youth ministry qualify her to offer teens this uniquely Biblical perspective on what it means to live an active Christian life while achieving success within the secular workforce.

Excerpts from Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce are available online at: https://acgheen.wordpress.com/category/devotions/retail-ready/

Hope to see you there!!

Standard
Devotions, Retail Ready

You Can’t Even Give It Away!

Tomorrow, through December 9th, get a FREE Kindle edition of “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce”!

Read: Matthew 28:18-20

“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” – Hebrews 12:1-2

Some people seem to be sent into our lives simply to test us and, on this particular afternoon, I found just such a person standing nearby as I worked to sign people up for our store’s discount card.

After listening to several customers tell me that they weren’t interested, he turned around and declared quite adamantly, “You can’t even give those away!”

I smiled and said that I was giving them away to which he responded with a piteous smile.

After I had been told “no” several more times, he turned and said something to the effect of, “Guess they don’t know what a great deal they’re missing.” (At this point, I could feel myself growing irritated at his mockery.)

No, no, no, no… “So how many hours do you have to do this?” he asked with a delighted grin.

Resisting the urge to let him have it, I relaxed in my seat and continued my work. The truth was, despite his derision, I was ten memberships short of averaging one for every three minutes of the entire six hour period in which I had been working! The results of my efforts had been nothing short of phenomenal and the choice was now mine – to focus on the negative and give up or to see the success which had been achieved and finish the task.

As believers in Christ, we often face very similar situations and it can be difficult to keep our focus, particularly when people are making fun of us or deriding what we believe. And that’s why the Bible tells us to keep our eyes on Christ. Only by making Jesus the center of our lives at all times will we be able to stay on the path He has prepared for us and accomplish the task which He has given us – that of sharing the Gospel with sinners like ourselves!

Challenge: This week, commit to keep your focus on Christ and finish the task!

Standard
Devotions, Retail Ready

A Whole New Wardrobe

(The following excerpt is taken from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce”, available for purchase on Kindle for $7.99 or in print from Amazon for $9.99.)

Read: Colossians 3:1-17

“For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment.” – Isaiah 64:6

I looked up from my conversation as a sandy haired cowboy strode through the double doors, his clothes covered in muck. In farming and ranching country, we get an awful lot of muck covered customers (many wearing that special men’s cologne “Eu de Cow”), but this poor gentleman looked as if he’d fallen into a pond of it and rolled around a few times.

“I have to be somewhere in an hour and I don’t have time to go home. Would you help me with some clothes?”

His tone was urgent and I readily walked with him to the clothing department where we began the process of selecting an entirely new wardrobe. Retiring to the changing room, he tried everything on at once, then folded his dirty clothes and headed for the check stands where I faced the distinct challenge of ringing up his purchase.

Doubtless, the two of us were quite a site as I attempted to remove each of the security tags from his garments. Our de-tagger was firmly attached to the counter and he had to perform the work of a contortionist in order for me to remove each security device! Having completed the sale, I gave him one final look over, then released him: a new man.

Scripture tell us that we, too, became “new men” when we placed our faith in Christ. Our old man has been crucified with Him and we, like my customer, have exchanged the muck-covered garments of our sin for the spotless new wardrobe of His righteousness.

Challenge: Are you still dressed in the righteousness of Christ or are you struggling with the temptation to put on the “muddy” garments of your own best efforts once more? This week, find someone to partner with you to help keep you accountable to God and encourage you to rely on His work for you rather than upon your own efforts!

Standard
Devotions, Retail Ready

Shoplifting the Hard Way

(The following excerpt is taken from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce”, available for purchase on Kindle for $7.99 or in print from Amazon for $9.99.)

Read: Matthew 6:25-34

“For this reason I say to you, do not worry about your life, as to what you will eat; nor for your body, as to what you will put on… but your Father knows that you need these things. But seek His kingdom, and these things will be added to you.” – Luke12:22b, 30b-31

Shoplifting puzzles me. But shoplifters puzzle me even more. While I met more than a few during the course of my retail career, there were several who had elevated their thievery from base robbery to an opportune art form. Capable of removing merchandise from our store with skill and creativity, I sometimes felt that I ought to have been giving out awards rather than urgent calls for management. And such was the case on this particular afternoon.

I had been casually chatting with my customers as they made their way through my line, enjoying the small-talk if only for the fact that it filled that awkward silence between the merchandise being placed on the counter and my request for payment when a gentleman approached my counter with a large supply of garden chemicals. He placed them on the counter without looking at me and I proceeded to ring them up while attempting to make friendly conversation. Each time I would say something to him, he would respond with a mumble and, presuming that he had a speech impediment of some sort, I didn’t think twice about his lack of engagement.

I had finished the sale, accepted his cash, and was in the process of counting back his change when I got my first full look at his face. I had to do a double take since his cheeks were puffed out as though he were a chipmunk. As he left I stared curiously wondering just what rare disease could cause a person to be so sadly deformed.

He had not made it through the front door when I had my answer. As the light hit him, it also glinted off several objects protruding from between his lips. In a flash, I realized that he was shoplifting a mouthful of nails. I confess that I was too surprised to do anything about the matter. In fact, I couldn’t help but wonder why, with his large bulky jacket, he had chosen to shove them all in his mouth instead of his pocket! It would have been so easy to escape unnoticed if only he had done the obvious thing.

And therein lies the moral of our story: it seems to be a standard human fault that most of us make things more difficult than we need to. Even as those who have professed faith in Christ, we tend to spend our time storing up money and possessions, things which we will need in the future. Yet God has promised to take care of these very things if only we will trust in Him! This doesn’t mean, of course, that we never plan for the future, but it does mean that our plans must always be subject to His plans and that we can rest in the knowledge that even when things don’t turn out as we envision, God still has things fully under control!

Challenge: Are you doing things the hard way, focusing on making provisions for yourself and your future? If you are, commit to letting go and letting God. Only He can be fully trusted to meet our needs!

Standard
Devotions, Retail Ready

This is Worthless

(The following excerpt is taken from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce”, available for purchase on Kindle for $7.99 or in print from Amazon for $9.99.)

Read: Philippians 2:5-13

“And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” – Romans 12:2

It was clear that not everyone who was standing around my table was actually listening to what I had to say. Some of them had the nerve to admit that they’d just listened to my pitch, but weren’t paying attention. Would I please tell them what the advantages of the club were… just one more time?
Others, however, weren’t so courageous. One lady, in particular, had heard my explanation of our member card and its benefits at least three times before signing up, but even then, she didn’t seem to understand the card’s purpose. When she went to check out and was told that the Garden Club Card was not a general discount on everything in the store, she was enraged! She returned to my table, threw the card at me, and in a raised voice proclaimed, “This is worthless!”
Of course, the card really wasn’t worthless, it just didn’t do exactly what she wanted it to. Sadly, many people come to Christ with similar misconceptions: under the impression that a relationship with Christ is going to change their world from thorns to roses. When it doesn’t, they get angry and give up!
The truth of the matter is that we live in a sinful world. If we’re not suffering the effects of our own mis-deeds, we’re suffering the effects of someone else’s. So long as we live on this planet or in this universe, things will go wrong. People will die, jobs will be lost, bills won’t be met, cars will be wrecked, major medical needs will be had, and natural disasters will occur. Knowing Jesus as your personal Lord and Savior won’t change that.
This doesn’t, however, mean that a relationship with Christ isn’t worth anything! While knowing Jesus won’t magically change your world into a place of constant harmony and happiness, it does change the way you look at the world in which you live. And this leads to joy and peace. Those who accept Christ as their Savior no longer need to feel that everything is falling apart simply because things don’t go the way they thought they should. Instead, we can navigate life’s storms in peace with the knowledge that everything that comes our way is filtered through God’s fingers first. Each challenge or difficulty we encounter has been allowed for the purpose of refining us and making us more like our Lord. God has promised us that in the end, everything in our lives will work out for good. And this is a comforting thought!

Challenge: Is your trust in God or in what you hope that He will do for you? There is a big difference between the two!

Standard
Devotions, Retail Ready

The Add On Sale

(The following excerpt is taken from “Retail Ready: 90 Devotions for Teens in the Workforce”, available for purchase on Kindle for $7.99 or in print from Amazon for $9.99.)

Read: 2 Peter 1:2-11

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” – Galatians 5:22,23

It’s the defining line of retail sales excellence: the ability to not only help the customer find the product that he came in for, but to ensure that he leaves with everything that he actually needs to finish the project that he has begun.  I’m not talking about selling someone more useless junk or leaching money from the wallet of an unsuspecting victim.  That’s for amateurs and con men.  What I’m talking about is the ability to imbue a customer with confidence that he isn’t going to need to run back to the store a dozen times in order to pick up those items which he forgot.  What I’m talking about is the fine art of the add-on-sale… and it might look something like this:

Elwood Employee smiles as he hands a can of paint to Carl Customer.  “It sounded like you were painting a fairly large wall.  Do you have a drop cloth at home?

Carl frowns.  “No, I don’t.”

“They aren’t terribly expensive.  I can set you up with one for $1.50.  At that price, you can afford to just pitch it when you’ve finished.”

“O.K.  It’s definitely cheaper than replacing the carpet!” Carl laughs.

Elwood had just “added on” a sale and Carl leaves with the confidence that he won’t spend the day painting the wall only to end the afternoon fighting with his wife over the paint he splattered on the floor!

God, too, is skilled in the art of the “add on”, but unlike salesmen, His additions (the fruit of the Spirit) come free for the asking.  He knows that without these special virtues, it can be impossible at worst and difficult at best, to deal with the new situations that we encounter as His children.  Add to that the fact that without them it is nearly impossible to show others the value of His free gift and they suddenly become a very appealing extra!

Challenge: Don’t be satisfied with just the “basics” of Christianity!  Ask God to develop these virtues in your own life, then commit yourself to growing in the Lord!

Standard