To the Infinite, All Finites are Equal

This was too good to keep to myself. From Mark Batterson's The Circle Maker:

With God, there is no big or small, easy or difficult, possible or impossible. This is difficult to comprehend because all we've ever known are the four dimensions we were born into, but God is not subject to the natural laws He instituted. He has no beginning and no end. To the infinite, all finites are equal. Even our hardest prayers are easy for the Omnipotent One to answer because there is no degree of difficulty.

Talk about your deep theological truths.

Take Initiative at Work

I've had many conversations with people who complain that they're bored at work because they don't have enough to do.

When I tell them they should find something to do, they respond by saying they've asked for more work but aren't given anything.

In essence, they're telling their boss that their position isn't needed and should be downsized.

If you don't have enough to do, it's time to start taking some initiative.

  • Write a best practices document.
  • Clean your workplace.
  • Volunteer for another project in your organization.
  • Research the latest trends in your field.
  • Provide unbelievable customer service.
  • Learn more about your organization.
  • Assist a busy coworker.

If you have lots of free time at work and aren't looking for productive ways to fill it, you're not worth your paycheck.

The first professional job I got after college was as a Data Entry Specialist* for a Senator.  I have a $100k education, and I'm doing data entry.  Not exactly my dream job.

But before long I started helping my boss manage our database, and I did much of the work of a flaky coworker who was never in the office.  I began assisting staff in another department that I wanted to join, and I did my own work with excellence so that other peoples' jobs would be easier.

I once got a mild reprimand for taking too much initiative after making a slight error in a project.  I was told that maybe I should cool my jets for a little while until the dust settled.

But you know what, my supervisor got management to give me a $3000 bonus that wasn't normally given to first year employees, and when I left the job, that same boss said I had brought a new level of professionalism to the position.

If you don't have enough to do, it's time to start taking some initiative. The rest of us are busy and could really use a hand.

Photo by sunshinecity

*Yes, the title really included the words "Data Entry" followed by the word "Specialist."  I couldn't make that up.

What are you about?

It's a simple question really, although one that might be difficult to answer:  What are you about?  What defines you?  What is unique about you?  What makes you who you are?

Jamie asked this question of herself on her blog, which got me thinking about what I'm about.

I'm about Jesus, and I'm about helping others follow him.

I'm about my wife.

I'm about the Church and more specifically my church.

I'm about community.

I'm about cities. I live in DC, and my last three trips have been to Seattle, New York City, and Addis Ababa.

I'm about food. I especially love Chicago pizza, hot dogs and beef sandwiches, and if you grill meat I'll like it.

I'm about leadership, learning to lead myself and others well.

I'm about too much TV.

I'm about receiving grace and trying to get better at giving it.

I'm about reading and writing.

I'm about social media.

I'm about driving.

I'm about generosity.

I'm about being stressed and agitated but trying to change that.

I'm about my friends.

I'm about Sabbath.

I'm about poker.

I'm about competition and winning.

I'm about thinking and challenging and stretching my mind (and yours).

I'm about serving the vulnerable, because that's what Jesus is about.

I'm about integrity.

I'm trying to be about joy and intentionality.

I'm about theology.

I'm becoming about artistic expression and travel.

I used to be about politics.

I'm about exercise (sometimes).

What are you about?  Leave a comment below or better yet, write your own post and link back to mine.  I'll be sure to swing by your blog and check it out.

Photo by Flickr User gfpeck

You can Take your Advice and Shove It

"A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." -Proverbs 15:1

Or to quote a more modern proverb, "You attract more flies with honey than you do with vinegar."

In other words, you're more likely to win someone over or get what you want when you're sweet, kind, and gentle than when you're harsh, overbearing, and rude.

I got an e-mail recently from a person who seemed to be telling me how to do my job.

My immediate reaction was, "You can go jump."

After a bit more thought, I realized their idea might not be a bad one, but I was still pretty opposed to it because of the source and the tone of the email.

Fortunately, this cooler head prevailed before I responded, and I simply said I'd consider their idea but let them know I might not execute it.

Even still, I wish I had waited a bit longer to reply, as after calming down just a bit more, I would have let them know I truly did think there was value to their idea, which likely would have helped placate them if I decided not to act on their suggestion.

This experience made me realize that I have a tendency to do this same thing: point out where others have gone wrong or how to do things better.  (Actually, my wife pointed it out the night before in an unrelated conversation. Sometimes she's far more observant than I.)

I think there's a significant leadership lesson to be learned here, one that I'm not sure I really understood until I so quickly juxtaposed being on both the delivering and receiving ends of this sort of criticism.  And that is simply that you attract more flies with honey than with vinegar.

You'll get more done by being kind and persuasive than by being harsh.  A harsh word will really only do three things

  1. Give you short-term satisfaction that you were right and the other person was wrong.
  2. Alienate you from that person, decreasing your influence with them and making it far less likely that they will actually do whatever you were hoping.
  3. Make you bitter.

A soft word—advice delivered humbly, gracefully, and lovingly—is far more effective at both accomplishing a task and building a relationship.

Photo by flickr user Alan Stanton

Does Art Have a Place in the Church?

So yesterday I posted this thought-provoking video…

…and as I mentioned, it got me thinking about discipleship, but it also got me thinking about art.

Should we invest time and money in creating beautiful music or video masterpieces for church services?

What about paintings and sculptures and poetry and sketches and photographs and speeches that may or may not bear any explicit religious purpose, that often possess little utilitarian use but connect with something deep inside of us and reveal not only the imago Dei but perhaps even the Deum Himself?

Does our creativity reflect and glorify the Creator in whose image we are made or are we wasting our days naval gazing or daydreaming or creating simply to create when we could be spending our lives in service to God through loving and serving and relating to others, offering our bodies as a spiritual act of worship?

Is your art your idol?

Does your creativity point to the Creator?

Does art have a place in the Church?

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Health and Wealth Gospel

Three NCC pastors’ cars are in the driveway this morning…

Through the Looking Glass

Occasionally we peer through the window of another’s life and glimpse a stain on his soul.

Twice today I have been confronted by the character issues of another person, and in one instance I got angry about a sinful pattern in someone’s life.

As I was considering how to address the problem, it suddenly hit me that I have a similar tendency… one to mistreat others.

My indignation was followed by conviction.

I guess this is what Jesus was talking about when he said to make sure to remove the plank in your own eye before trying to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Occasionally we peer through the window of another’s life and glimpse a stain on his soul.  The fool sees only the faults of his fellow man, but the wise man catches his own reflection in the glass.

Photos by Elvert Barnes

Twitter and Flickr, Rich and Poor, and the West

This morning I ran across this map of Twitter and Flickr activity around the world.  The blue dots represent Twitter activity, while the orange-ish ones represent Flickr photo uploads.

I think the prevalence of activity in the West says something about the world, although I haven’t nailed down exactly what that is yet.

It’s related to something I’ve been thinking about recently: what it means to be rich and what it means to be poor, how even the poor in the west are quite well off compared with the poor elsewhere.

Map by Eric Fisher

Relational Missions

Yesterday as I reflected on our trip to Ethiopia, or perhaps more accurately reflected on our futures now that we have been to Ethiopia, there is one key aspect of mission trips, especially this one, that I failed to mention.

This trip wasn’t about producing a product, and it wasn’t even primarily about building relationships with the boys, although that was a huge part.

A large part of the reason we went, and an especially large part of the reason I went, was to support and encourage Adam. He’s a thirty-something Philly boy living in a foreign culture with fifteen former street boys.  Visitors from home can help soothe the homesickness and provide a much-needed infusion of energy and enthusiasm.

I had also mentioned that we spent most of a day on the trip simply continuing to build the relationship between NCC and Beza. There’s a Kingdom connection there that cannot be measured in dollars and cents.

Mission trips have the potential to accomplish something that cannot be counted by simple utilitarian measurements.  There’s something powerful about the Body of Christ spread across continents but united in heart and mission.

It was Christ himself who told us that the world would know we are His disciples because of our love for one another.

Imprisonment, Torture, and the Red Terror

Post written at the end of the third day of the trip, August 15

Today we visited the “Red Terror Martyrs” Memorial Museum, which recounts the horrors suffered by the people of Ethiopia at the hands of General Mengistu, the leader of the Derg ruling party.

 

As our impromptu tour began, seemingly just because we were a willing audience of foreigners, our guide spoke passionately about Ethiopia in the Derg regime, emphasizing repeatedly how a person or a group had been killed without due process.

I didn’t quite understand our guide’s passion until he revealed how he had been tortured in the traditional manner, hung from a pole cuffed and shackled as his feet were whipped. He described how prisoners would have their nipples pinched off toenails removed, and molars pulled with pliers. Women would suffer genital mutilation.

Formerly a monarchy, the government of Ethiopia was overthrown by a communist rebel movement known as the Derg after the Emperor, Haile Selassie, failed to respond to a terrible famine which killed countless people.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t long before the Derg began greater abuses of power than Selassie ever had. Mengistu and the Derg tortured and killed hundreds of thousands of Ethiopians.

Perhaps the most powerful moment of the tour, aside from the personal revelation made by our guide, was when we stepped into a room, an ossuary of sorts, filled with the remains of those who had been killed. Pulled from mass graves there was shelf after shelf of human skulls and bones, most of which have never been identified.

In a society where speech is free and elections are democratic in theory but all too often not in reality, though it is 20 years after the overthrow of the Derg, the significance of this museum, recounting in vivid detail and depiction the horrors of a tyrannical government, simply overwhelmed me.

The museum’s slogan is “Never, ever again.” And our guide continued to say that we cannot forget what happened so that it will never happen again.

So that’s what this is, an attempt to honor that commitment to remember in an attempt to prevent… but what the astute reader may recall is that thousands were disappeared or jailed following protests against an unfair election in 2005, actions frighteningly reminiscent of the those taken by the current government’s predecessors.