Monday, August 30, 2010

God's infomercial

I just finished reading "A Million Miles in a Thousand Years" by local author Donald Miller.  I have read all of his books and always find his writing to be both accessible and insightful.  One passage in the book resonated with me in particular.  It talks about the idea that people often expect life to be easy once they become a Christian.  Like some sort of infomercial for the key to happiness on earth.  When in fact, Jesus promises us that life will be filled with trials (John 16:33).  Just look at the earliest Christians, the apostles, and the strife they endured.  Don puts it this way:

"Can you imagine an infomercial with Paul, testifying to the amazing product of Jesus, saying that he once had power and authority, and since he tried Jesus he's been moved from prison to prison, beaten and routinely bitten by snakes?  I don't think many people would be buying that product.  Peter couldn't do much better.  He was crucified upside down, by some reports.  Stephen was stoned outside the city gates.  John, supposedly, was boiled in oil.  It's hard to imagine how a religion steeped in so much pain and sacrifice turned into a promise for earthly euphoria." 

As life unfolds new trials before me, I find myself again wondering why.  Why would God allow bad things to happen to his beloved children?  As a parent, I would do anything to protect my kids from pain.  So why doesn't my all-powerful heavenly Father protect me from pain?  And if God promises us plans to "prosper us and not to harm us," (Jeremiah 29:11) then why are we allowed to suffer?  What happened to my key to happiness on earth? 

Don answers these why's like this:

"I think Jesus can make things better, but I don't think he is going to make things perfect.  Not here, and not now.  What I love about the true gospel of Jesus, though, is that it offers hope.  Paul has hope our souls will be made complete.  It will happen in heaven, where there will be a wedding and a feast.  I wonder if that's why so many happy stories end in weddings and feasts.  Paul says Jesus is the hope that will not disappoint.  I find that comforting."

God didn't promise heaven on earth.  So while life may totally suck from time to time, I have hope.  And despite my anger and grief and all around confusion, I know God is right here with me.  He will give me the strength to endure (Psalm 46:1). 

All this is to say, my sister has breast cancer.  She is one tough chick and I know she will kick cancer's ever loving arse.  But why the heck does she have to go through this?  God help me, I have no flipping clue.  So I just trust and hope and pray.  If you know my sis and want to follow along as she gives cancer an old fashioned arse whooping, you can find updates here.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Managing 101 - What Not to Do

I tend to shy away from talking about work as some of my co-workers lurked around here from time to time. But with my blogging lull, I'm guessing that they've all gone on their merry way. And what the heck, it's my blog!

Like many people, I've worked for a myriad of managers over my career. Most have been good-hearted which tends to erase any managerial shortcomings. But there have been a few doozies over the years.

My first manager liked to stroll in around 9am, apply her make-up for the next 15 minutes before running out to grab some breakfast. She then spent the balance of her day huddled around the proverbial water cooler complaining about how overworked she was before exiting promptly at 4:30pm. She treated me with a sort of aloof disdain leaving my budding self esteem to wilt under her harsh gaze. When a new manager took over and treated me as though I was CEO potential for doing the exact same work, the skies seemed to part. Everything suddenly made sense and I was quickly promoted. It was then that I realized what a profound impact a manager can make on their employees!

Fast forward through a dozen or so managers across 2 more companies and I have learned a great deal about what to do and sometimes more importantly, what NOT to do as a leader. Which brings me to my latest experience. This one we'll put firmly in the what not to do column. Suffice it to say that my last manager made my first manager look like Mary Poppins. In fact, "boss" is a more appropriate term for her.

My boss would give unclear direction (if any at all) and then verbally abuse us for not delivering her expectations. She would push us for critiques of our co-workers, tell the individual a grossly exaggerated version of the conversation then berate us publicly for not working well together. When things went well, she would pass off our work as her own and when things went poorly, she would step quietly aside to watch us crash and burn. This past year has been a trying one but I was intent on doing my best, helping her succeed and sheltering my team from her craziness. Overall, I believe I accomplished my goals. She was uncharacteristically complimentary in my annual review despite giving me a rather lackluster rating. It was a disappointing end to the year but thankfully my efforts have led to a new job.

Believe me when I tell you dear internet friends that had I written this post a week ago, it would have taken a much uglier turn. But a wonderful vacation and a thought provoking sermon on Ephesians 4:31-32 (31Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you) has softened my perspective. So at this point, I'm chalking this one up to just another life lesson of what not to do. And I hope it makes me a better manager as a result.

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