Saturday, October 30, 2010

Will and History

With election day looming near, politics is in the air and on the ads. Every election is a huge crisis, the most important one yet! Conservatives and liberals sow seeds of fear and cast visions of doom. Hearing this rhetoric and reading their tripe, it makes me wonder if there is any other way? Is this it?

There are many ways of viewing history. Will Durant gives his in The Lessons of History. Fascinating insights. One particular paragraph in his chapter on the growth and decay of civilizations prompted me to consider a core difference between conservatives and liberals.

History repeats itself, but only in outline and in the large.
We may reasonably expect that in the future, as in the past, some new states will rise, some old states will subside; that new civilizations will begin with pasture and agriculture, expand into commerce and industry, and luxuriate with finance; that thought will pass, by and large, from supernatural to legendary to naturalistic explanations; that new theories, inventions, discoveries, and errors will agitate the intellectual currents; that new generations will rebel against the old and pass from rebellion to conformity and reaction; that experiments in morals will loosen tradition and frighten its beneficiaries; and that the excitement of innovation will be forgotten in the unconcern of time.
History repeats itself in the large because human nature changes with geological leisureliness, and man is equipped to respond in stereotyped ways to frequently occurring situations and stimuli like hunger, danger, and sex.
But in a developed and complex civilization individuals are more differentiated and unique than in a primitive society, and many situations contain novel circumstances requiring modifications of instinctive response; customs recedes, reasoning spreads; the results are less predictable. 
There is no certainty that the future will repeat the past. Every year is an adventure.

Just some observations:
Conservatives want to conserve. Liberals want to liberate. Conservatives want to keep things the way they were. Liberals want to embrace whatever is next. Conservatives are slow to accept change. Liberals are eager to accept change. Conservatives prefer the tried and true. Liberals prefer the new. Conservatives want to hold on to what they have. Liberals want to give away what they have.

Some more observations:
Conservatives and Liberals wrangle over Economics, Culture & Morals, Governing Policy, Military, Religion, and more. There ought to always be tension between Conservatives and Liberals when it comes to these vital issues. It's the tension that prompts reflection, research, arguments, challenges, and insights. The point isn't to decide who is wrong and deride them. The point is to deal wisely with the complex situations at hand. Conservatives need Liberals and Liberals need Conservatives. We need the tension, but we don't need the hate, the arrogance, the stereotyping, the simplistic slogans, the quest for power. 

History repeats itself as it moves forward. Progress is the hallmark of the liberals. A civilization is always moving towards death, but in the centuries in between, there is the constant march towards innovation and discovery and adventure. 

So what is the role of the conservative in this reality? Is it to always raise the caution flag? Is it to alway cry: "Beware" and "Watch Out!"? Is it to sow seeds of fear about what might be around the corner, about the danger of changing too fast, about new-fangled ideas? Is it to remind the next generation the lessons of the past? Is it to insist on sifting and sorting what is helpful and prudent amidst the turbulent changes of civilizations?

I ask with sincerity. What is the role of the conservative?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Strive Always

What drives you?

We are always driven by somethings. Affection. Fear. Fame. Money. Success. Hate. Security. Fantasy. Some people are driven with massive amounts of energy and ambition and focus. And others are driven as a leaf.

It's worth considering what is driving you.

A different question: what are you striving for?

You may not always know what is driving you, but striving is one of those things you do on purpose. Too few of us are striving for something worthwhile. Something simple. The apostle Paul said it like this in Acts 24: So I strive always to keep my conscience clear before God and all people.

Life takes a lot of work: you can either work hard enduring the burdens of a guilty conscience, or you can do the hard work of keeping your conscience clear. Too many of us are driven by guilt, and too few of us strive for a clear conscience.

Paul's faith in Jesus was connected to his clear conscience. Following the Way of Jesus, having faith in Jesus - this was the course for clearing your conscience. When Paul talked about following Jesus, about believing in Jesus, about keeping his conscience clear before God and all people, he talked about these three things: righteousness, self-control, and the judgment to come.

Righteousness: the work of joining Jesus in making things all right – within and with others.

Self-control: the task of imitating Jesus in mastering appetites and steering your emotions/thoughts/attitudes towards righteousness.

Judgment to Come: the day of resurrection when Jesus rewards the righteous for what they did to the ‘least of these’ and the wicked reap what they have sown.

Faith: Trusting the Words of Jesus and Following the Way of Jesus by Joining Jesus Now in His Making Things All Right.

Strive always for righteousness and self-control. Strive always in light of the Judgment to Come. Strive Always in Faith.

What are the alternatives?

Every son and daughter bears wounds from their father and mother. This is what drives so much of our life. Strive for righteousness, to make things more all right then they are - for healing and making amends.

Everyone notices the inhumanity of our world. Do you turn a blind eye? Do you become calloused? Do you get overwhelmed and wearied? Or do you strive for righteousness, to make things more all right then they already are in your own sphere of influence, in your neighborhood, in one area of the world that strikes a chord with your heart?

Are you driven by hunger for sex and affection and intimacy and acceptance and respect and affirmation? Or do you strive to master your emotions and desires, steering them in the direction of righteousness? When you stomach growls, when your belt is too tight, when you're snacking while nervous and worried, when you rack up ridiculous credit card debt from eating out - when you are driven by your that really what you want for your life?

Do you play the comparison game? You're at least doing better than...who? At least you're not as bad as...who? When you strive for righteousness and self-control, you are free from the comparison game. When you choose to follow the Way of Jesus, and you have all God's help available for the asking.

Righteousness is rewarded in this life and in the one to come. And wickedness reaps what it sows, both in this life and in the one to come. You sow gluttony and greed, lust and anger - you refuse to make amends and to gain control over your tongue and stomach... and you'll reap what you sow.

What are you driven by? 

Strive always to do the next right thing, to help make things all right. 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

A Linchpin Makes a Difference

Excuses are easy to come up with for why you haven't made a difference in the world yet. It's hard to make a difference in the world. Not only are the tasks difficult, the things that have happened to us in the past can be like a handicap to us. Maybe in your place of employment, maybe in your home, with your family, or friends, or church - you look around, and you wish things were different. You see how things could be better. But you are too afraid to make a difference for good. So you complain. Or go negative. Or give up and walk away.

When it comes to your workplace or ministry, you can either focus on the tools you don't have yet to do better, or you can work on your attitude towards the people you must interact with. It's easy to do nothing, or to do little because of inadequate (fill in the blanks). If you want to make a difference in the midst of less than ideal circumstances, what should you do? 
What's a linchpin to do?

Here's some advice from Seth Godin:

In a pre-Internet world, where couldn't have existed, would Jeff Bezos be a nonpassionate lump? If Spike Lee hadn't found a camera, would he be sitting around, accepting the status quo?
Passion isn't project specific. It's people specific. Some people are hooked on passion, deriving their sense of self from the act of being passionate.
Perhaps your challenge isn't finding a better project or a better boss. Perhaps you need to get in touch with what it means to feel passionate. People with passion look for ways to make things happen.
The combination of passion and art is what makes someone a linchpin. (92)

Being open is art. Making a connection when it's not part of your job is a gift. You can say your lines and get away with it, or you can touch someone and make a difference in their lives forever.
This is risky and it's impossible to demand from someone. The decision to commit to the act is a personal one, a gift from the heart. 
Certain sorts of art make us cry without embarrassment. (93)

It's not an effort contest, it's an art contest. As customers, we care about ourselves, about how we feel, about whether a product or service or play or interaction changed us for the better.
Where it's made or how it's made or how difficult it was to make is sort of irrelevant. That's why emotional labor is so much more valuable than physical labor. Emotional labor changes the recipient, and we care about that. (95)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

The Local Church and Poverty

What is a local church to do in regard to neighborhood families in poverty?

First it is probably helpful to get to know the families, one by one, and hear their story. There can't be help for a community until there is understanding of individual stories. Getting to know a family in poverty is the best starting place to help them.

But what is the goal of that help to the family in poverty? Is it our intent to help that family break free from the chains of poverty? Are we helping a family out of situational poverty or generational poverty? Is there any kind of disability involved? Any abuse or addictions that have caused this poverty? If the release from poverty is about something else other than money, how do you know when the family is released?

If a local church only deals with families in poverty when there is a crisis, it is likely that the church will become hardened to helping. The crisis is never-ending, there is no life change, and the money is limited. But how can a local church help families in poverty unless that local church lets those families worship with them, become part of the congregation?

What happens, though, when a middle-class church starts inviting the working class and poverty class families to be part of their church? The social dynamic will change. The conversations at potlucks will change. The small group experiences will change. The counseling situations will change. The financial stability will change. Will middle class families want to worship and raise their kids with those living in poverty? 

How are families in poverty to find Christ and find new economic stability unless middle-class families follow Christ into the lives of those who are poor. If Christ came to us while we were yet sinners, then we ought to go to those who are not yet free from poverty. Unless, of course, you don't think that Christians and churches have an obligation to help families in poverty find freedom from those chains.

In my searching for understanding, in my work to follow Christ, in my pastoring and caring for families in different kinds of classes, I wonder... What is the local church to do about poverty? The congregation I serve includes those from the working and poverty class. It was a goal of our church to serve and help and minister to families in our neighborhood. And we are always learning how to do that better. But the working and the poverty class live in the suburbs, live in small towns, live out in the rural areas. A local church always has poverty around it. You will find what you are looking for. 

Should the church make it a priority to seek out the poor in the community to join your congregation? Or should we only engage them if they contact us first? And are we to "fix" them when we meet them? What does it mean for a middle-class church to love a family in poverty? Can a Christian stay poor and still be mature in Christ? Can a family be stuck in working class yet be a devoted follower of Jesus? How can a local church help families in poverty become self-sufficient like those in the middle class? Is that even a valid goal? Do the poor and working class Christians have anything to offer the middle-class Christians?

Maybe the local church needs to minister to the poor more than the poor need the help of the local church...

Take Courage. It's Going to Be All Right.

What fuels your belief that it is going to be all right? 

Fear is easy to do when things aren't going all right, but fear can be too easy even when things do seem all right. Courage is always a choice, courage to do the next right thing. This is what can fuel your belief that everything is going to be all right. By doing the next right thing, you set yourself up for a tomorrow where things are more all right then they were yesterday. Out of all the prayers that God hears, he is eager to answer the ones that request courage. 

Things got pretty tense for St. Paul. Acts 23. He's in the hotseat amongst the religious leaders. They want him imprisoned. They want him dead. Paul's able to get out of the room by dividing the leaders and getting them to fight amongst each other. A Roman commander needs to rescue Paul yet again from the riotous mob. At the end of the day, Jesus shows up to personally lift up Paul's eyes. His words? Take courage, Paul,  it's going to be all right. It takes faith to hear these words and know they are true. The situation is dire for Paul, it's uncertain, it's not going the way he wants. He can't see around the corner to know what could happen next. He needed courage, he needed to believe that it was going to be all right. 

Paul believed that Jesus of Nazareth was resurrected from the dead three days after his crucifixion. Paul also believed that this resurrection of Jesus was a sign of what was to come for all those who followed Jesus. Paul believed that someday God would resurrect from the dead all those who trusted Him. Paul believed that God would resurrect all these people into a world that had been made all right. These beliefs create a fruitful tension in Paul: he wants to live and help others follow Jesus so that they can be part of a world that will be made all right. But Paul is ready to die and await the resurrection and be that much closer to a world that has been made all right. 

Paul had hope for this life - that no matter what happened to him, God was working in and through him to make things all right now. The work that God is doing in and through Paul is connected to that future day when everything will be made all right. Paul has hope in this life because of his belief in the resurrection. And Paul can take courage in this life because he knows that everything can be used by God as part of his work to make things all right. Paul knows that when he dies, God's work will be incomplete. There are decades and centuries and millenia of work yet to do. But he knows that someday everything will be all right. And Paul is letting God do that work now in and through him. 

Take courage. Whatever it is that you are going through, God can work in and through you to make it all right. Take courage. The work may not turn out the way you want or imagined, but it will turn out all right. When you let God work his way in you and through you, it will turn out all right. It may not be completed in your life, but someday it will be. There will be a day when you wake up, and it is all right. 

Take courage today. It's going to be all right.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

When God Doesn't Get What He Wants...

What are you like when you don't get what you want?

Do you ever wonder what God does when he doesn't get what he wants? 

When Jesus walked the vineyards and olive groves of Israel, his disciples requested he teach them how to pray. He took a common prayer and adapted it - one of the revised lines went like this: Your kingdom come, your will be done. Jesus wants his followers to pray for God's kingdom to come to earth. The implication is that it isn't here yet. Well, it's here, but only in part. So what does that mean?

The short version: to talk about God's kingdom is to talk about God getting what he wants. Jesus taught that the kingdom of God was within each of us. This is another way of saying that God gets what he wants with us, in us, and through us. Does God always get what he wants out of us? Ha! We know the answer to that one. Now multiply that over six billion times.

In another teaching moment, Jesus made this point: seek first God's kingdom and righteousness - and everything else in life will take care of it self. God's kingdom is another way of saying that God gets what he wants, and righteousness is another way to talk about God's work to make everything all right. When God works to get what he wants, he works to make everything all right. Sounds appealing, right? Makes you wonder why more people in the world aren't more open to God's work in their life. But then you and I often resist God's work to make everything all right in our own life. Oh, wait, you don't have any problems, you're all fixed up, aren't you! Ha.

The apostle Paul found himself in some tense moments with others because of his work of proclaiming the kingdom of God and His righteousness. In one particular scenario, he is recounting his life - especially those parts when he was opposing the work of Jesus' followers. But something changed in his life, and now he's promoting the work of God in Jesus' followers. Out of all the lessons we could pull out of this, it's worth focusing on this:

Everything is preparation.

Everything in your life is preparation for what God wants to accomplish in the world.
God is working in the world to make everything all right - that's what he wants. And everything you've ever said, done, thought, dreamed about is preparation for God's future work in the world through you to make everything all right.

Of course plenty of your life seems like a waste, a big mess, a life uninterested in God. Fortunately, with God, everything in your life is redeemable. He can bring good out of everything in your life. In his work to make the world all right, he must first do this work in you before he does it in the world through you.

Everything is moving forward to God's kingdom come in full. Someday God will finish his work in the world of making everything all right. Life is not one endless cycle, it is heading forward. Sometimes you have to believe it to see it. You have to believe that God is always at work to make things all right before you can see it. You have to believe that everything in your life is redeemable before you can see it. You have to believe that God can help you move forward, no matter your past. Even if you fall forward, he can help you get up and stumble forward.

God doesn't always get what he wants in the world. He doesn't always get what he wants with you. But in his work to make you all right, and in his work to make the world all right, his work is always moving forward. Everything in your life is preparation, it is redeemable.

When God doesn't get what he wants, he stays loyal, he perseveres, his patience endures. He wants to make you all right, and he won't give up on you. When you're ready, he's ready.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Prayer for the Weary Saint

Here's how a conversation might go between you and Jesus, a prayer of sorts as you unload on him.

You: People are often mean, irrational, and self-centered.
Jesus: Forgive them anyway.

You: If I am kind, people may accuse me of selfish, ulterior motives.
Jesus: Be kind anyway.

You: If I prevail, I will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies.
Jesus: Prevail anyway.

You: If I am honest and sincere people may deceive me.
Jesus: Be honest and sincere anyway.

You: What I spend years creating, others could destroy overnight.
Jesus: Create anyway.

You: If I find peace and joy, some may be jealous.
Jesus: Be happy anyway.

You: The good I do today, may be forgotten.
Jesus: Do good anyway.

You: I give the best I have, and it is never enough.
Jesus: Give your best anyway.

~ Adapted from a prayer of Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Money, Morals and Ministry

It's pretty easy to name some high-profile ministers who have scandalized Christianity through abuse of money and disregard for morals. But what about everyday Christians who don't think that they have a ministry, who aren't careful about their money, and who don't pay much attention to their morals?

The big-name preachers are a big embarrassment to the Church, they get flashy news-coverage and we all wince. How is it really worse than believers who don't use their skills and gifts to serve in the name of Christ, who don't give their money generously to the needy, and who don't mature their moral life as part of their hard work to love their neighbor? Which is more embarrassing?

The Apostle Paul was traveling from Corinth to Jerusalem, via the Egnatian Way through Thessalonica, then by boat along the coast of Troas and Lesbos, skirting Cyprus before they get to Syria. Along they way their cargo ship harbors to load and unload and make repairs. We read in Acts 21 how Paul and company would visit with the hospitable believers in town.

Through a prompting of the Holy Spirit they warn Paul that violence and arrest await him in Jerusalem. They plead with him not to go, to choose a safer destination. But the Holy Spirit has confirmed in Paul the need to go to Jerusalem, despite the danger. So which is it - is the Holy Spirit sending mixed messages? Does the Holy Spirit prompt a man to walk into risky situation?

Paul needed to go to Jerusalem as part of his ministry. He wanted to share with the elders of the Jerusalem church what God had been doing through him amongst the pagan villagers, the sophisticated Greeks and the tough Romans. God was clearly doing some amazing work through Paul's ministry, and everyone wanted to celebrate that.

Paul had also been collecting money from the many churches he had started or visited - money that was to go towards the poor and destitute in Jerusalem. But Paul had also been the subject of some nasty rumors, that he was promoting immorality and blasphemous ideas. Paul needed to clear his name and share the truth about his money, morals and ministry.

Does the Holy Spirit ever talk to you? Do you ever receive a prompt from the Holy Spirit? If not, here are some observations taken from Paul's story: the Holy Spirit will most likely have something to say to you about your money, your morals, and your ministry. As a Christian, all your money is God's money. So obviously God's Spirit is going to have some instructions for you on what to do with HIS money. As a Christian, our defining characteristic is to love God and love our neighbor - love is a moral, so do you think God's Spirit might have something to say to us about our love, about our morals? As a Christian, we have a ministry to go and make disciples - can we do this ministry without guidance from God's Spirit?

What needs to happen next in your life when it comes to your money, your morals, your ministry?

To discern an answer, I suggest you first pray about it, talk to God about it, and then listen for what God's Spirit reveals to you. He may reveal it to you while you are conversing with a friend, it may be while your at work, it may be while you are falling asleep at night.

To prompt some reflection on what God wants you to do next with your money, morals, and ministry, here are some suggestions:

MONEY: it's not your money, it's God's money. If He asks for at least ten percent of it back, don't you think you could do that? Maybe for some of you He's now asking for twenty percent? This is called tithing. When you tithe, you give your money to God. You can do this by giving it to your local church where you are involved.

You might worry that your budget can't afford ten or twenty percent going to God. From personal experience, when you tithe, things always work out for the better. When you trust God with your money, He makes sure you always have enough. It's a very beautiful thing.

MORALS: it's not your heart, it's God's heart! The best gift you can give to others is love. God wants to use you to lift up others, to help them grow and mature and blossom and make a lasting contribution to the world. God has saved you from the power of sin, he has made your heart clean, he has enabled you to help others break free from the enslavement of sin.

So why do you coddle your precious sins? Why do you not want to do what it takes to break those ugly habits that ruin and taint your love for those you care about? What are the ugliest, most common sins among Christians? Greed (Yuck!). Gluttony (Ugh!). Anger (Ack!). Pride (Blech!). Envy (Ewww!). Laziness (Yikes!). Lust (Argh!). Which ones are yours? No, really... which ones?

Until you are disgusted by the sins in your life, they'll stay there. Until you are under deep conviction to give a more powerful kind of love that leads to transformation and redemption in others, you'll let those sins keep their claws in you. 

MINISTRY: it's not your life, it's God's life! You are a gift from God to the world, to your family, to your church. Let God be the one then to direct your skills and gifts, your passions and interests, your personality and experiences towards bringing the whole gospel to the whole neighborhood. Jesus demonstrated what ministry could look like. He taught us how money and morals make for a powerful ministry - or a lousy one.

The way of Jesus showed us what our way of life could look like. We have to adapt to our culture, our century, our city - but our ministry flows out of our understanding of Jesus, our desire to follow in his steps, our following the prompts of God's Spirit. How you serve will be unique, it will be an expression of you and your obedience to Jesus in your world.

But you already have a ministry - you are always communicating something about God. If you are not intentional about your ministry, you have no idea then what you are sharing about God - and odds are it's not very good stuff. So learn what your ministry ought to be these days, embrace it, and live it.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Even When You Don't Feel Like It

There are still a bunch of jobs out there that require physical labor. Whether it's a skilled physical labor job, or unskilled, your body gets tired at the end of the day. You risk physical ailments because of the repetitive motions, the strain on your back, the headache from the fumes.

For awhile, though, there have been more and more jobs that require emotional labor. Sure, it's pretty hard to imagine a job where your body does no movement - if you move around, I guess that counts as physical labor. But more and more people are getting hired - not for the skill of their hands or the eloquence of their mouth, but the intelligence and capacity of their emotions. And this is not just for women.

More and more, where you work is requiring more emotional labor from you. Whether you type, file, push a button, drive a truck, use a hammer, make a phone call, write a document, or the thousand other physical tasks that you can get paid to do - all of them are done within the web of relationships. Most immediate is going to be a customer or a coworker. At some point you interact with your boss. After awhile, the physical labor can get mindless, but the relationship side of your work - well it can always be full of drama, tension, disappointment, anger or joy, fulfillment, and excitement. It's usually the emotional side of your work that makes it unbearable. And it can be that the emotional labor is the hardest work of all.

To be a linchpin where you work, do the hard work of emotional labor. Even when you don't feel like it.

Here are some thoughts on emotional labor from Seth Godin:

Apparently, we don't have a lot of trouble understanding that work might involve physical labor, heavy lifting, or long periods of fatigue. But, for some reason, we hesitate to invest a more important sort of labor into work that really matters. Emotional labor is the task of doing important work, even when it isn't easy.

Emotional labor is difficult and easy to avoid. But when we avoid it, we don' do much worth seeking out. Showing up unwilling to do emotional labor is a short-term strategy now, because over time, organizations won't pay extra for someone who merely does the easy stuff.

We're not at all surprised when a craftsman sharpens his saw or an athlete trains hard. But when an information worker develops her skills at confronting fear (whether it's in making connections, speaking, inventing, selling, or dealing with difficult situations) we roll our eyes.

It turns out that digging into the difficult work of emotional labor is exactly what we're expected (and needed) to do. Work is nothing but a platform for art and the emotional labor that goes with it. (80)

Volunteering to do emotional labor - even when you don't feel like it, and especially when you're not paid extra for it - is a difficult choice. (81)

When you do emotional labor, you benefit.
Not just the company, not just your boss, but you.

The act of giving someone a smile, of connecting to a human, of taking initiative, of being surprising, of being creative, of putting on a show - these are things that we do for free all our lives. And then we get to work and we expect to merely do what we're told and get paid for it.

This gulf creates tension.

If you reserve your emotional labor for when you are off duty, but you work all the time, you are deprived of the joy you get when you do this labor. Now, you're not giving gifts on duty, but you're not off duty much at all. Spend eight or ten or twelve hours a day at work (not only in the office, but online or on the phone or in your dreams), and there's not a lot of time left for the very human acts that make you who you are and who you want to be.

So bring that gift to work.

And what do you get in return? In most cases you get very little in return. At least, little in terms of formal entries in your permanent file or bonuses in your year-end pay. But you do benefit.

First, you benefit from the making and the giving. The act of the gift is in itself a reward. And second, you benefit from the response of those around you. When you develop the habit of contributing this gift, your coworkers become more open, your boss becomes more flexible, and your customers become more loyal.

The essence of any gift, including the gift of emotional labor, is that you don't do it for a tangible, guaranteed reward. If you do, it's not longer a gift; it's a job. (82)

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Do You Believe in Hell?

Do you believe in Hell?

If so, what kind of Hell do you believe in?

Did you used to believe in some kind of Hell, but not you're not so sure what to think or believe?
Or maybe you are someone who's never believed in Hell?

For you, why is it necessary to believe in Hell?
For others of you, why is belief in Hell such a problem for you?

A blog I follow - Jesus Creed - is working it's way through a book about Hell: Beyond the Abyss. If you're interested in the topic, you can follow along.

Here are the first four posts - they include an intro by the author of the blog, Scot McKnight, a quote from the author of the book being discussed, and then some questions to consider by Professor McKnight. Then there are lots and lots of comments to read. Fascinating, thought-provoking stuff.

Beyond the Abyss - Post One

Beyond the Abyss - Post Two

Beyond the Abyss - Post Three

Beyond the Abyss - Post Four

Monday, October 04, 2010

Becoming The Linchpin

The economy is probably going to get worse before it gets better. You know that. The belt will have to continue to tighten. If you still have a job, you're going to have to find ways to increase the odds that you can keep that job. And if you get laid off, you'll want to cultivate skills and attitudes that increase the odds you get hired ASAP.

What if you can't find a job? You still got bills to pay. You must find a way to get compensated for the work you can do. Which means you need to keep getting really good at the work you can do. And get more creative. You may have to solve your own problems. You may have to become the kind of person who is indispensable.

Here's some thoughts along those lines from Seth Godin:

If you seek out critics, bureaucrats, gatekeepers, form-fillers, and by-the-book bosses when you're looking for feedback, should you be surprised that you end up doing the things that please them?
They have the attitude that there is an endless line of cogs just like you, and you better fit in, bow down, and do what you're told, or they'll just go to the next person in line.
Without your consent, they can't hold on to the status quo, can't make you miserable, can't maintain their hold on power. It's up to you. You can spend your time on stage pleasing the heckler in the back, or you can devote it to the audience that came to hear you perform. (Linchpin, 60)

Your restaurant has four waiters, and tough times require you to lay someone off.
Three of the waiters work hard. The other one is good, but is also a master at solving problems. He can placate an angry customer, finesse the balky computer system, and mollify the chef when he's had too much to drink.
Any idea who has the most secure job?
Troubleshooting is never part of a job description, because if you could describe the steps needed to shoot trouble, there wouldn't be trouble in the first place, right?
Troubleshooting is an art, and it's a gift from the troubleshooter to the person in trouble. The troubleshooter steps in when everyone else has given up, puts himself on the line, and donates the energy and the risk to the cause. (Linchpin, 60)

Emotional labor is available to all of us, but is rarely exploited as a competitive advantage. We spend our time and energy trying to perfect our craft, but we don't focus on the skills and interactions that will allow us to stand out and become indispensable to our organization. It's called work because it's difficult, and emotional labor is the work most of us are best suited to do. It may be exhausting, but it's valuable. (Linchpin, 63)

Sunday, October 03, 2010

How Many Second Chances Do You Need?

It was a warm Mediterranean night. The cool breeze off the Aegean Sea couldn't offset the lack of windows in the third floor. The young man in the window was hogging all the fresh air. The lamps and candles in the dark room added to the stuffiness and smell of an overcrowded room. As the hours ticked by, the drowsiness settled heavier and heavier on the guy in the window. He fell asleep. He slipped out of the window, fell to the ground, and there Eutychus died. Did I mention that his name means lucky? :)

The crowd rushed one at a time down the stairs, screaming and wailing amidst general confusion. Someone picked up Eutychus limp body, didn't hear any breathing, and announced his death. Then the crying really got intense. But a man named Paul worked his way through the overwrought crowd, had Eutychus put back down on the ground - and he stretched his live body over the dead one. This kind of stifled the loud lamenting, nobody quite expected this turn of events. In the tense silence, those closest to the two bodies could hear Paul muttering intensely, praying fervently.

As everyone started shifting nervously on their feet, Paul slowly stood up - looked the family in the face and announced with great relief: "He's not dead, he's alive!" The crowd rushed around Eutychus and his mama and who screaming and wailing amidst great confusion, rejoicing, and unbelief. Paul slowly backed away from the scene and headed up the stairs - exhausted and grateful. He'd not noticed Eutychus falling asleep in the window. He'd been so focused on his preaching he'd lost track of time - had it really been over five hours? Paul was famished and made arrangements for dinner, even if it was midnight. Eutychus was brought back up stairs and sat next to Paul as they ate together. There the two of them stayed as Paul resumed preaching. Finally at dawn, when the yawns could no longer be stifled, and Paul had said all that he could say, they all went home.

When are you Eutychus?

When are you given opportunities to hear the truth, to be introduced to a new way of seeing reality? When are you in a place to get some wisdom and insight. And then you get bored? And you quit paying attention? And then you fall asleep?

When do you mean well? When do you get frustrated when life doesn't turn out the way you want, despite your best intentions?

Eutychus, if he was tired, probably shouldn't have been sitting in the window. Odds are his mama warned him about it. It was great to have Eutychus at the meeting to hear Paul preaching, but maybe when he got drowsy, he should have moved to a different spot.

When are you Eutychus? 
When do find yourself in situations where you need a second chance?

It was good that Eutychus had come to the gathering on Sunday - he needed to be there. And as it was, it ended up being a day he'll never forget. He got a second chance that Sunday. His life would never be the same. His family would never be the same.

Every Sunday YOU get a second chance, depending on what you do with the day. Every Sunday you get a chance to start over again, to press the reset button, and walk out the doors with a new breathe of life in you.

When are you Eutychus? When will you let others help you? When you fall, will you let others lift you up? When you make stupid decisions, will you let others tell you the truth? When you are wandering and confused, will you let others take your hand?

When are you lucky? They say that luck equals preparation plus opportunity. What are you preparing for? What is the opportunity that you are preparing for? Are you preparing for a life of generosity and forgiveness and sacrifice and joy and beauty and freedom? Or are you squandering your days with self-indulgement, pettiness, envy, and a big chip on your shoulder?

Every Sunday you can get a second chance. Paul died a long time ago, so if you fall out a window he won't be there to rescue you. But Jesus is still around. The Same Spirit that was upon him is the Same Spirit here with you - to speak to you, to inspire you, to convict you, to guide you, to lift you up. This Same Spirit often works through other disciples of Jesus - and when these disciples gather each Sunday in the name of Christ... well good things can happen. And when you need some good things to happen in your life, when you need a second chance, finding a gathering of believers could be just the thing you need.

Be Eutychus. Take the second chances given to you. Be lucky. Prepare for greatness. Look for opportunities to do good. Let God use you to help others make the most of their second chances.