Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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The Most Painful Time of My Career and What I Learned from It


The most difficult period in my nearly 38-year career at a Fortune 50 organization came about 25 years into it. I touched on this period briefly a few years ago in my article “Looking Back at Life Through the Lens of Romans 8:28”. It started with a regular monthly meeting with a team member, a team member who was not a good performer (and later terminated by another manager). The team member was a homosexual, a detail that is important to this story. But I always love to see people turn their performance around. That is one of the most satisfying aspects of being a leader.
During the course of the meeting, I remember him pointing out a small George W. Bush bumper sticker that I had placed near the bottom of a bookcase in the corner of the office, out of the sight of most. I’m sure he had put me in a mental box as being a conservative in all things, which was probably not an inaccurate assessment. But then he said “I bet I wouldn’t even be welcome in your church”. I was taken aback by his jumping to this, but I knew fully what he meant. I replied, “Yes, you would be welcome…..but, we would want you to change”. As I recall, we shortly got back to discussing business and the meeting ended fine. But within a day or two, I was called to my leader’s office and told that the employee had filed a complaint against me. Continue reading


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The Biggest Risk I Took in My Career


Are you a risk taker? Some people are, but I’ve never been one to take big risks without looking at an issue from all sides, getting input on it, and praying about it. I remember one IT department leader telling us (about implementing changes into our infrastructure) that if we do our homework (testing, etc.) and something went wrong, he would be right there to support us. However, if we had not been diligent, and something went wrong (the change took the system down, for example), we would be dangling in the wind without his support (as he slowly waved a piece of paper back and forth).
One time, about a third of the way into my career, a mentor suggested a consultant position to me that if I was chosen, would have resulted in a promotion. However, the position would have resulted in a significant amount of travel. After my wife and I discussed this, we decided that the downside offset the advantage of the position, and thus I did not pursue it.
One of the risks I did take was when I applied for a leadership position that was a step up from the one that I was in. The position would be a challenge for me, and I would have to take a lot of difficult classes. On top of that, I loved the position I currently had (leading a group of Planners). I remember praying about this decision, and not getting any clear answer one way or the other. I decided to make the move and it was one of the best decisions I made in my nearly 38-year career.
But the biggest risk I took was changing departments exactly halfway into my career. Continue reading


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The Privilege of Prayer


Have you ever heard someone say something like this, or perhaps you have said it yourself, “I don’t know what else to do, I guess I can pray for you”?  Rather than being something you have to settle for, praying for someone is actually the best gift that you could ever give them.
Have you ever considered just what a privilege it is to come before a Holy God in prayer? I think sometimes we take the ability to bring our requests before God, and Him bending down to listen, for granted.   Psalm 116:1-2 says:
I love the Lord, because he has heard
my voice and my pleas for mercy.
Because he inclined his ear to me,
therefore I will call on him as long as I live. Continue reading


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Why I Love John MacArthur

In John Piper’s book entitled Why I Love the Apostle Paul: 30 Reasons he tells us about the profound impact the Apostle Paul has had on his life and ministry. In this article, I would like to do the same for John MacArthur, who has served 51 years at Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California. Imagine that – having the same pastor for 51 years! One of his accomplishments at Grace Community Church was in preaching through the entire New Testament, which he completed in 2011.  He is currently in the news because Los Angeles County is attempting to evict Pastor MacArthur’s Grace Community Church (GCC) from a parking lot it has leased since 1975—the latest in an ongoing battle between Grace and government authorities concerning GCC’s decision to defy coronavirus restrictions.
I first saw MacArthur speak at the Ligonier Ministries’ National Conference in 1997 when the theme was “Essential Truths of the Christian Faith”, and have seen him speak at that conference many times since. In addition, I have seen him speak at the Sing! 2018 Conference and on a book tour for his book A Tale of Two Sons (later retitled The Prodigal Son), one of my favorite books. I’ve read most of his books and often listen to his popular Grace to You radio program.
Whereas Piper provided 30 reasons for his love of the Apostle Paul, I’ll just list one for my love of John MacArthur. And that is simply because of his stand for the truth. MacArthur consistently lives out Romans 1:16:
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
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Bible Translations: What Are They and Which Ones To Use?

There are so many versions of the Bible available to us today. How are you to determine which one is right for you?
When I first became a Christian, I read translations that were easier for me to understand. My wife Tammy grew up reading the King James Version (KJV), a version that I had difficulty understanding. So, I started out reading a Good News Bible (GNB) and The Living Bible (TLB). Those versions were just fine for me at that time in my life. In one church we attended they used the New American Standard Version (NASB), so I started using that translation. Eventually, I began reading the New International Version (NIV) until the English Standard Version (ESV) was released in 2001.
In this survey I read from January, 2017, the King James Version was the most read version of the Bible in America, with the New International Version and English Standard Version trailing far behind in second and third place.
With so many versions of the bible available to us, how are we to choose which one to read? The translation philosophy used may be important to know. Tim Challies gives this helpful breakdown of the main categories of translations “On the one side of the spectrum, we have what we might call word-for-word translations. On the other side, we have what we might call paraphrases, and somewhere in the middle, we would have thought-for-thought. Okay, so, word-for-word, thought-for-thought and paraphrases.”
Word-for-word translations, also known as formal equivalence, attempt to match the original language words with the closest English language counterpart. Thought-for-thought translations, also known as dynamic equivalence, attempt to pair the ideas behind each phrase or sentence with a similar idea in the English language. Paraphrased translations use modern language and idioms to try to capture the thought and essence behind the original text. Below are translations that fall into each of these categories: Continue reading


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Why Not Start a Book Club?


Forming a book club is a great way to enhance the pleasure you get out of reading a good book. I’ve previously written about why you might want to consider starting a Faith and Work Book Club, which I participated in at work the last few years of my career. A Faith and Work Book Club is an excellent way to discuss a book and how to integrate your faith and work and be a positive influence and representative of Christ in your workplace. A few members of our Faith and Work Book Club who left the workplace at the same time I did have continued in a new book club. More about that shortly. Continue reading


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How to Live a Life of Productivity Through Effective Planning

Usually when I talk to people, they tell me that they are busy, very busy.  But it’s the rare person that will tell you that they are happy with how much they get done each day or week. How can we be more effective in getting our work done, no matter what that work is? In other words, how can we be more productive? To do so, we often work more hours. I know that’s what I used to do. I would often be the one turning on the lights on my floor at work in the morning. I worked more than 55 hours a week for years. But working longer or harder doesn’t necessarily mean that we are more productive. We end up getting tired and our productivity actually falls. Activity doesn’t always translate into results.

Over the past few years, I’ve read three excellent books on the subject of productivity. Below are my reviews of these books along with some helpful quotes. I hope that these are a benefit to you.

What’s Best Next: How the Gospel Transforms The Way You Get Things Done by Matt Perman and a link to 25 quotes.

How to Get Unstuck: Breaking Free From Barriers to Your Productivity by Matt Perman

Do More Better: A Practical Guide to Productivity by Tim Challies and 20 quotes that I found helpful.

Looking back, my busiest time took place when I was going to seminary while working full-time as a manager in a Fortune 50 organization, and serving as a leader in my church. Seminary took about 20 hours a week, work 50+, and I often handled special assignments in my role as a leader at church. I had so many commitments and due dates, I really needed to stay on top of things effectively. There are many ways of doing this. For example, Tim Challies recommends using a tool such as Evernote. I’ve found that a simple “To Do” or “Priorities” list in a Word document worked best for me. My Dad is a list maker, and perhaps that’s where I picked up this habit.

Here are a few thoughts on my major areas of responsibility during those busy times and how I tried to stay on top of things: Continue reading


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My Favorite “Business” Book

Patrick Lencioni is one of my favorite business authors and this is one of the most helpful books that I continually go back to time and again. I would say it is my favorite “business book”, but it is actually helpful in any setting in which you work with a team – business, church, non-profit, sports, etc.
In this book Lencioni follows his usual practice of using a fictional account (fable) to make his points in an interesting manner, and then summarizing those points in the final portion (last 33 pages) of the book.
In the fable, Kathryn Peterson is a newly appointed CEO of Decision Tech, a technology company which has much potential. In fact, Kathryn will tell her staff multiple times:
“We have a more experienced and talented executive team than any of our competitors. We have more cash than they do. Thanks to Martin and his team, we have better core technology. And we have a more powerful board of directors. Yet in spite of all that, we are behind two of our competitors in terms of both revenue and customer growth.”
The problem with Decision Tech is that their executive staff is not displaying teamwork. In a series of off-site meetings, Kathryn leads the staff through the five dysfunctions of a team. She, as well as Lencioni in the final portion of the book, recommend ways for overcoming the dysfunctions.
This is an excellent book on team dynamics and teamwork. Being written as a fable allows the reader to get a vivid picture of how a team interacts and what it feels like to be part of a successful team. This is a quick read; the author’s model is simple and the book is full of practical advice which leaders can use in building good teams. I’ve included some helpful concepts Lencioni teaches in the book below: Continue reading


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Life Lessons Learned from Loss


My Dad went home to be with the Lord on September 3. You can read what is in effect my eulogy for him here.
Reflecting back on his loss of physical strength and independence and then on through the last week of his life, my sister, brother and I learned a few lessons – many of them closely related – that might help you. Here they are:
No Regrets – Several times during the last week of Dad’s life, my sister mentioned that she had no regrets. When our Mom died a little more than 24 years ago, it was sudden. She never recovered from heart surgery, and died two days later. She was on a ventilator and we couldn’t communicate with her. At the time some relationships were better than others, and there were some regrets. In Dad’s final days, we fortunately had a little more time to spend with him.
Leave Nothing Unsaid – Any time we leave a visit with an elderly parent or other loved one, we realize that it could be the last time. Of course, we know that a loved one doesn’t have to be elderly; none of us are guaranteed life for the next minute. During this time, we learned not to leave things unresolved. As an example, my relationship with my Dad throughout my life was complicated. We went through long periods of not talking during two parts of my life, time we could never get back. In January of this year, during a time when Dad spent time in three different hospitals, I felt prompted to ask for his forgiveness, which he graciously granted.
During the last week of Dad’s life, we were able to thank him for being such a great Dad and giving us such a good life. We are so glad that we had that opportunity.
Forgive Others – Similar to my example above, do you have unresolved issues with loved ones? You may not even recall what originally led to the break in the relationship. Why not take the step to try to mend the relationship, asking for forgiveness for anything you have done and forgiving the other person for any hurt they have caused you?  This doesn’t mean that you have to have a relationship with them going forward, but it’s time to lay that burden of bitterness down.
Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Colossians 3:13
Stay Connected with Extended Family – Our Dad and Mom were raised in the Chicago area, where much of their remaining family members still live. After we moved to central Illinois in the early 1960’s, we would often make the trip back to Chicago for holidays, weddings, etc. However, as time went by, we each started our own families and the trips became less frequent. After our Mom died in 1996, we rarely saw extended family members. Seeing some of them at Dad’s visitation and funeral brought us mixed feelings – joy in seeing loved family members, and sadness and regret that we have let so much time go by without trying to connect with them. My hope is that after this pandemic, and it is safe to travel and be around people again, we will be intentional and proactive about visiting with both sides of our family.
Tell Them You Love Them – This is the most important lesson of all. Don’t forget to tell your loved ones that you love them. During the pandemic, I started taking afternoon walks, which usually included a call to Dad. We would talk about politics, sports, the news of the day and my brother’s upcoming retirement. I would end each call telling Dad that I loved him. It was uncomfortable at first, as we didn’t grow up sharing our feelings like that, but it became more comfortable, and he would tell me that he loved me as well.
In the hospital during Dad’s final days, my sister, brother and I had the opportunity many times to tell Dad that we loved him. Even if your loved ones know that you love them, why not be intentional about telling them as often as you can?
I hope these lessons that we learned from walking with Dad in his final days will be of some help to you in your particular situation. What lessons that you have learned would you add to our list?


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My Dad, My Friend


My Dad, William (Bill) Pence, has gone home to be with the Lord. After battling heart problems for many years, and significantly over the past eight years, he died on Thursday, September 3, at home, surrounded by his loving family. Death is truly the final enemy (1 Corinthians 15:26).  But we know that he is now in the presence of Jesus. The Apostle Paul tells us that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:8). Jesus told the repentant thief on the cross that “today, you will be with me in paradise”. (Luke 23:43).
Dad was married to Rose, my mother for 41 years. He later married Pat, who he was married to for 23 years. He leaves behind Pat, her children and grandchildren,  my sister Lisa and her husband Jeff, my brother Mike and his wife Julie, and I and my wife Tammy, two sisters, Linda and her husband Brian, and Cindy, three granddaughters, Jenna and her husband Niles, Brooke and Jorri, two great-grandchildren, Darla and Conrad, family in the Chicago area and many friends.
Before he died, I was able to share the special memories below with him, something I didn’t have the opportunity to do with my Mom when she died after heart surgery twenty-four years ago. My sister, brother and I also had some sweet times together in the hospital telling him that we loved him and remembering favorite things in his life – his favorite trip, meal, song, author, favorite golf course that he played, etc. – and Face Timing with family members.
Here are some of the special memories that I shared with him – a lifetime of memories – in the last week of his life. I hope you enjoy reading these. Continue reading