Saturday, April 19, 2014

What Are YOU Waiting For?

Everyone is waiting for something.  Maybe not all of the time, but most of the time, we are all waiting. For a phone call, an email, an interview, a test result, a birth, a death.

On this day one man was waiting for something unique.  To resurrect with a glorified body. A body that would still eat and walk and talk.  Still, a glorified, un-dying body. Never happened before.  Never happened since.  None of his friends, it seems, though he told them to expect it, were waiting for that to happen. Can you blame them? 

It is said that his waiting was rewarded.  It is said that we are all in a Saturday waiting time zone.  For those who wait with Hope, it is said we will share in waiting’s reward.

“It is a good thing to remember that in the cosmic drama, we live our days on Saturday, the in-between day with no name. I know a woman whose grandmother lies buried under 150-year-old live oak trees in the cemetery of an Episcopal church in rural Louisiana.  In accordance with the grandmother’s instructions, only one word is carved on the tombstone: ‘Waiting.’” (P. Yancy, The Jesus I Never Knew,  p. 275)

It’s Saturday. Something new was stirring in Jesus, dead as dead though he was.  And he waited.  Turns out, it was worth the wait.

It’s Saturday. What stirs within your soul?  What are you waiting for?  When you receive the greatest hope for which you wait, will it have been worth the wait?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The Meaning of the Parade

Giving advice about life and work is a tricky business.  What has life taught me that is really worth repeating to someone 30 or 40 years behind me on the journey?  What won’t sound like the gripes of a man who didn’t get his way? What won’t sound like the boastings of a man who is claiming success which was really earned by others?  What have I learned in life that is really adaptable to someone else’s life, to someone who is going to walk with different people, in different places, in a different time?

That was some of my thinking as I prepared to be interviewed by a seminary student for a class assignment on pastoring a church.  Her last question asked me to summarize in a few points what is most important to remember.  I came up with a few things, like, when you are conversing with people, listen much more than you speak.  Say just enough to let the person you are with tell their story.  I wish I was better at that, frankly.  Listening well is such a lost art on people who aspire to leadership.  And then I said it was important to be willing to fail, and when you do fail, to admit it, learn from it, and move on.  If you are going to lead people in some worthwhile new venture you need to be willing to fail.  If you insist on guaranteed success in your every task you cannot lead boldly.  And I suggested that in all aspects of work, leave room for the Holy Spirit to act. Have a plan of what you want to do or say, but remember that someone else is in control.  The people you work with might be the messengers of a better way.

The most important lesson I tried to pass along was this: remember you are a servant.  The people you serve are more important than you are. Their “success” is more important than your own.  I woke up today thinking about that, and the famous line from Patton.  He says that when a Roman conqueror rode his chariot in glory through the streets of Rome, showered with praise for his success, a servant stood at his ear whispering, “All glory is fleeting.”  Don’t seek glory. Seek the success of the people you are called to serve.  One of the most well-known parades happened on a dusty road near Jerusalem 2100 or so years ago.   The people shouted praise to the man who rode on a donkey.  That praise lasted all of 5 days. Then they killed him.  Had he only rode on the donkey his fame would have been short-lived. 

What God ultimately rewards is work which brings glory to God, not to ourselves.  Only one man was born to die.  For the rest of us, work is one big “thank you.” Work well.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Choosing Your Team

I was talking with a friend of mine about a potential new hire for his business.  We were considering the traits of the applicant and I suggested that she seemed confident. He suggested she seemed arrogant. Which led me to ask, “Where is the line between ‘self-confident’ and ‘arrogant’?  My friend used a sports analogy, and if you don’t follow college sports you may need to look up these names, but he said, “Frank Kaminsky is self-confident; Johnny Manziel is arrogant. One puts himself above the team and believes the rules don’t apply to him. The other works within the system for the betterment of the team. All things being equal I would rather have Kaminsky on my team.”

I cannot really disagree with my friend’s analysis. But it made me think about why we perceive this woman differently.  I wonder if our perception of other people is as much a reflection of who we are as who the other person is?  Do we evaluate people and judge them as good or bad for our own “team” based on who we are as much, if not more, than who the other person is?  Look at, for example, two basketball teams playing in the NCAA’s Final Four.  Wisconsin and Kentucky are generally judged as complete opposites. To mix metaphors, Wisconsin is the work horse and Kentucky is the thoroughbred. Wisconsin is the “I think I can win” team and Kentucky is the “of course we will win” team.  Why do some people like one and some people the other? Regional loyalties aside, it seems the teams we “like” say a lot about us. The character of the team is the same; whether you like the team or not says more about you than it does about the team. This business of deciding who people really are is important, not just in choosing employees, but in choosing friends and spouses.  I think two people, looking at the same employee candidate’s traits, could see those traits in a positive and a negative light.  Here’s a simple example: say “President Obama” in a room full of 10 people and at least two people will have equally strong and opposite reactions. He is one man perceived in two entirely different ways, not because the President is two men, but because the people perceiving him are so different.  The point being, in choosing your team, you need to know as much about yourself as you need to know about the candidates.

Jesus kept asking his friends, “Who do you say I am?” Jesus asked not because he was unsure of his identity, but to help us discover who we are.  Jesus can be perceived as either a “liar, lunatic, or Lord.”  Your choice doesn’t change who Jesus is, but it reveals who you are.  Do you want Jesus on your team? Choose carefully.