The Nouwen Challenge, pt. 2

“But it is actually best for you that I go away, because if I don’t, the Counselor won’t come… When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not be presenting his own ideas; he will be telling you what he has heard. He will tell you about the future. He will bring me glory by revealing to you whatever he receives from me.”  (John 16:7, 13-14)

Well, I gave it a shot today. I closed the door for 10 minutes, sat in the quiet and tried to see if God has anything to say. After a few minutes of pretty much nada, I started to get the sense that, at least for tonight, sitting quietly with God was the point. I’ll admit that sometimes it’s difficult figuring out the difference between God speaking through my conscience and my mind just wandering about, but I was clearly reminded that for many years my prayer life consisted of a dialogue, an ongoing conversation with God about the tapestry of daily events, instead of just lobbing up predictable requests (which he graciously fulfills).

There’s clearly a parallel here with what’s happening at work. In years past, I had a small group of coworkers with whom I spent a ton of time. We talked work, talked life, took coffee breaks together, and sometimes went out for a beer (after work, usually). Today I work with a great team of five others that I rarely see.  We call into team updates, use file sharing tools to swap documents, and most of all, use our Blackberrys to have quick chats or shoot off five-line e-mails. Perhaps my work lifestyle has overrun my work life. Is it possible that I’ve begun a Blackberry prayer life, shooting off quick businesslike requests without ever enjoying the presence of our omnipresent Creator? It’s time to reverse this trend.

Not a bad start for day one. In fact, when I glanced at the clock, thirteen minutes had gone by. More later. 

The Nouwen Challenge, pt. 1

I’ve been thinking a lot about silence lately. I don’t encounter much of it in my life. Even when I’m alone at work, the silence is only external. Inside my head is a running dialogue of to do lists, e-mails, and ideas for getting stuff done. At home, the sounds inside and outside of my head are much more enjoyable, but the the noise exists nonetheless. I’m beginning to think that I thrive on it… I even have an iPod dock in the bathroom so I can boom music when I’m getting ready in the morning (music preferences in the bathroom… TMI?).

If you happen to be one of my regulars, you might remember my blog post about Henri Nouwen’s classic writings on solitude. Since writing that, felt a little convicted that I should go and revisit the post as a reader instead of it’s author. I’ve been noticing just how little time I give God to actually speak to me in silence. One of my favorite persons from the Bible is Elijah, and one of my favorite stories is found in 1 Kings 19 where God speaks to Elijah not in the deafening chaos around him, but in a still small voice. In my spiritual life, I’ve found that God works this way more often than not, perhaps waiting on the periphery until we make room for Him in the priorities of our daily lives.

All this to say that I’m challenging myself to something new this week and I’m inviting you to join me. I’m going to do what Nouwen suggests – starting off with just a little time every day to sit in silence and let God speak. I’m going to pick 10 minutes every day (not sure when yet… either during the work day or at night after the kids go to bed), go someplace dark and quiet, clear my mind of all the chaos, and try not to fall asleep.  Whaddya say, ya up for it?

In need of a little good medicine

Today was a cruddy day. A day filled with frustrations that seemed to pile on top of one another. I know that my little issues at work are nothing compared to the many, many people that hate their jobs or all of the issues that people around the world are facing. Nonetheless, I was checking my watch as early as 3pm waiting for 5pm to roll around.  

Thankfully my friend Reid sent me a great YouTube video a few days ago on e-mail that I got around to watching this afternoon. We should be thankful for work friends and silly things that put smiles on our faces. Solomon wrote in Proverbs 17:22, “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Don’t let your bones dry up. And don’t smell like a turtle cage.

To view the video, click here (it’s safe for work).

 

Patient superheroes

There are so few superheroes in the office these days. When we find one, we should stick close and learn as much as possible. I spent my evening at a work event with my friend Frank. He’s a superhero. He’s incredibly intelligent, warm and caring; he doesn’t worry about taking credit for his many accomplishments; and he makes everyone around him better through his amazing attitude. He’s been a great mentor for me.

Seth Godin blogged about superheroes in the workplace on his site this week.  Check it out. If you’re not familiar with Godin, he’s an outstanding marketer that I’ve mentioned in a past post. He stresses the fact that most people that create positive change are driven but patient. He’s really on to something here. Patience is what’s required to not let ourselves get distracted from reaching the finish line.

From a Christian perspective, having patience isn’t about laying back and letting the world pass us by. It’s about staying focused on our goals, knowing that if we encounter troubles then we can opt for the long view by leaning on the one who can help us overcome them.

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 4:6-7)

 

On the road again.

Did you hear recently that Willie Nelson got hit by a truck?! Yes, he was singing on the road again!

Sorry for that. Anyway, hello again!  Sorry I’ve been incommunicado for a week. Boy, I really hadn’t planned on taking a full week break from blogging, but I found myself on a monster trip to Chicago for a trade show. In addition to long days and nights, we worked through the weekend (which I can’t stand doing because it means missing my Sabbath) and it really took it out of me.  It’s been a while since I’ve really had to do some heavy traveling for work. I’ve got a few friends that are on the road 2 or 3 days a week and I really don’t know how they do it.

Along those lines, my wife just told me about a book that I’m really excited about. It’s called Road Warrior by Stephen Arterburn. I’m a BIG Arterburn fan. His book Every Man’s Battle is one of my favorites and he leads a wonderful ministry called New Life (www.newlife.com). His new book is about how to keep a major travel schedule for work without sacrificing your family, your integrity, or the balance in your life. Normally, I’d prefer to read a book before recommending it, but I’m going to read it soon and trust that this will be another great resource from one of my most trusted authors. Check it out here: http://www.christianbook.com/Christian/Books/product?item_no=073719&netp_id=505748&event=ESRCN&item_code=WW&view=details#curr

Work family (aka, my favorite post yet)

If you happen to be one of my regular readers, you’ve probably noticed that I’ve been a bit inconsistent in my posts lately. I could easily blame it on the monster product introduction that my team is helping to coordinate next week (next week will be nutty too) but I must confess that the Stanley Cup Finals probably took their toll on my blogging just as much as work-related issues.

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m an insatiable Red Wings fan, and I consider hockey to be a gift from God. After doing the quick math, I estimated that I spent about 13 days of my year (104 games x 2 hours each = 208, divide by 16 waking hours in each day) watching Red Wings games, not counting going to spring training and local Grand Rapids Griffins games. That probably sounds like a lot, but I don’t take any vacations or hunting trips with the guys… I just spread out a couple of weeks worth of guy time each week over the 9-month televised hockey season. I thank the good Lord for every one of those months.

Anyhoo, my Wings won Lord Stanley’s Cup on Wednesday night. I’m still basking in the glow and was very happy to see this article from ESPN about why the Wings are such a special team. Take a minute to read it. In a nutshell, it stresses that the culture of the team (which, not surprisingly, starts at the top) is like a closely-knit family with a strong sense of loyalty.

This isn’t news to us Wings fans, as back in the beginning of the ’02 season (when they also won the cup), many of the top paid stars on the team took a voluntary pay cut to make room for one more guy (Brett Hull) whom they wanted on the team. I’d like to see that happen in the NBA or NFL. Also, each year the owners of the Red Wings pay to have all of the players’ dads (or in some cases, sons) travel with the team on a 3-game West Coast road trip. Very cool. Hockey is, and hopefully always will be, a sport where the personal ambitions of players take a backseat to the wellness of the team. As someone once put it, it’s a sport about what’s on the front of the jersey, not what’s on the back.

James wrote, “For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice(James 3:16).” The Wings success and the team’s ability to help rehabilitate the lives of Darren McCarty and the careers of guys like Dan Cleary point to the absence of selfish ambition. Imagine if all of our workplaces were so devoid of these toxins…

(but before you get all caught up in that heavy thought, check out this clip from Scrubs)

Starting over

Most people I know have had to start their careers over at some point. Sometimes these moves are voluntary, like when someone wants to make a major career shift late in life, but often they aren’t. Living here in Michigan, where the job base is shifting away from manufacturing and unemployment is high, I know quite a few folks that are starting over. I was reminded of this last night when my father-in-law was discussing how he started over thirty years ago. He had decided to open a restaurant which unfortunately didn’t make it. Left with a lot of debt and a young family, he looked for a job that paid him a modest amount that could grow into over time. He found a job in sales that he enjoyed and could do well at (extremely well, actually), and it wasn’t long before he was out of debt and one of the owners of that company.

It reminds me of the woman described in 2 Kings 4. Widowed and deeply in debt, she found herself with virtually no options (women couldn’t just find jobs in ancient Judah) so she sought out the help of the prophet Elisha. He asked her “what do you have in the house?” and she replied that she had nothing except a small flask of olive oil. He told her to borrow as many empty jars as she could from her friends and family and once she had, he miraculously filled every one to the brim. She was able to sell these jars of oil, get herself out of debt, and have enough left over to support her children.

This is a story that can teach us all a little something. Left with few options, the widow sought help from God, and he allowed her to build on the little that she had. The combination of a flask of olive oil and a few friends whom were willing to lend a hand allowed her to climb out of the hole she was in, and to provide her a foundation for her future. The key, I think, is that it starts with asking God to help us build on the gifts he’s already given us.