Saturday, November 23, 2013

Merging our two worlds

(Timesnews Religion column 11/22/13) 

Most of our adult life is spent working.  Typically, we finish high school and train for a trade or enroll in college, and then for the next 40 to 50 years it’s off to the salt-mines.  Work isn’t a curse, neither was work meant to be a burden.  Remember, Adam was sinless and guilt-free when he was placed in the Garden of Eden; Adam worked in the Garden before mankind's Fall.  Working within God’s creation reflects our partnership with God Almighty -- we were created to work.  Retirement isn’t our main goal, when it comes to working, reflecting God’s Image is our greatest priority.  

Many of us don’t stay in the same field we started off in; it’s okay that it takes awhile to settle in and find the right fit.  Scripture encourages us to take our vocation seriously, here’s just one example, “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ.” (Colossians 3:23-24, ESV)

Perhaps second only to marriage and raising kids, our occupations require our greatest, lifelong dedication.  Since we invest such a large portion of life to working, it only makes sense that we strive to merge our faith and our work.  In the Bible, The Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule weren’t restricted to Sundays -- they are for everyday of the week. The question we face week-in and week-out is: How can we consistently live-out our faith in the marketplace?

There are many excellent resources out there to help believers thrive in the workplace.  For example, last year Timothy Keller released, “Every Good Endeavor” (subtitled: connecting your work to God’s work).  To help us integrate our obedience to God with our work habits, Keller says his book answers three questions: Why do you want to work, why is work so hard, and how can we overcome these difficulties and find satisfaction in our work through the Gospel? (pg. 30)  Keller’s book is simple and practical.  If you are looking for a good read on vocational discipleship, you’ll appreciate Every Good Endeavor.  By the way, I don’t think it was a coincidence they styled the cover for Keller’s book with the same color scheme as Jim Collins’s Good to Great.

Our congregation takes merging “work & faith” seriously; we’ve asked Eastman’s CEO, Jim Rogers to address this timely topic.  He knows firsthand the challenges and the rewards of letting his Christian faith guide him in the boardroom.  Christian-based leadership in the corporate world can’t always be easy to pull off, therefore I can’t wait to hear how Mr. Rogers leads Eastman without compromising his beliefs.  If you’re interested in Mr. Rogers’s perspective on merging your faith and work, you are welcome to join us Sunday December 15th, at 10:00 a.m. in the Food City Press Room, 300 Clinchfield St.  

In the end, to find true peace of mind, Christians need to avoid the mindset that we can compartmentalize life into the sacred and the secular.   All of life was meant to be dedicated to God -- our profession, family, and worship, these all must merge seamlessly.  It’s not easy, but it is possible.  In fact, you could say it takes hard work...

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Would you avoid yourself?

Anyone can break off a branch or chop down a tree, but few have the patience to cultivate the soil around a tree and nurture the tree until it bears fruit.   Anyone can burn their bridges, though fewer will make the effort to build bridges.  It will always be easier to bulldoze over a house than it is to lay a foundation.

For example, to pick apart the ideas of others while idly sitting back, never quite initiating an original thought of our own.  For whatever reason, negativity and criticism flow like water -- erosive and effortlessly.

How will you be remembered?  As the person who built others up, or the one who tore down everyone around them with your cutting tongue?  You probably want to be remembered like the people you try to surround yourself with, and I doubt you purposely surround yourself with people who knock the wind out of your sails.

There's nothing wrong with collaborating with others and together mutually helping each other become better people.  But if there's one-sided faultfinding going on, you know "constructive criticism" that only flows in one direction, well, soon enough the crickets will fill the silence.

BTW: I was inspired with these thoughts today after listening to two people on NPR complain...

Monday, November 11, 2013

Why I don't wear a watch

When it comes to being on time, I like the old saying , "To be early is to be on time, to be on time is to be late."  Really, I like to be punctual but I don't wear a wrist-watch.

The reason I don't wear a watch, isn't that I'm against clocks.
Neither would I say am I uninterested the actual time.

For most of my life I wore a watch, up until I went to college and I noticed something odd about wrist watches for the first time in my life.  As I would talk with a professor and they would sneak a peek at their watch and it made me feel like I was wasting their time.  Like, they couldn't wait to be somewhere else.

Sometimes in class, I would raise my hand to ask a question or offer a response to the professor's question, and whenever the professor repeatedly looked at his watch, I had a sinking feeling. I'm not blaming anyone, but what I experienced in college caused me to hang up my watch.

I decided then, I didn't want to ever make others feel insignificant the way I was made to feel, so I quit wearing a watch.  How noble.  How bold.  How profound. How immature!