Monday, March 26, 2007

Work Is A Sacred Trust

I found this article on Christianity Today, and I found it so refreshing. It is so nice to see Christian websites that are posting articles about the value of Christian women working outside of the home (instead of the usual articles that I see which make working mothers feel like the worst people on earth). I hope you enjoy this as much as I did!

Work Is a Sacred Trust
by Nancy OrtbergMarch 22, 2007
The summer I was 15, I locked myself in the bathroom. Not for the typical reasons. There was no fight with my parents or disappointing love interest. I wasn’t trying to hide tears or cool down a temper. I had just received my first paycheck.
It wasn’t just the paycheck I loved. That was just symbolic. It was work I loved. I loved the feeling of doing something that mattered, something that helped other people, something that I could accomplish.
Growing up, I awoke each morning to the smell of coffee and the sight of my dad in his crisp white shirt and tie, sitting at the breakfast table reading the newspaper. His aftershave gently filled the room and there was a sense of anticipation in him as he readied to start the work day. My dad loved what he did, and he was good at it. That was a dynamic combination.
Every morning my mother drove me to school. After she dropped me off, she continued on the few more miles to her workplace. In the 1960s, I had one of the very few moms who worked. She was always dressed up for work and her mood seemed to match. My mother loved what she did, and she was good at it. That is a dynamic combination. “Thank God it’s Friday.”
“I hate my job.”
“Can’t wait until I retire; then I can start living.”
I don’t get that.
I love to work. I love getting up in the morning and getting dressed for work. I love looking over my calendar for the day and seeing what lies ahead. I love working with a team to make things happen. I love the relationships at work; I love the tasks. I love dreaming and imagining what might be, what the future could look like, how we could make a difference. I love starting to change things, and setting things in motion that might make those changes happen. I love celebrating the wins along the way and learning from the losses. I love watching the team getting healthier and happier as it gets better and better at the work it does.
I love how when people are led well. Not only do they accomplish great things, but they become better people in the process. There is that kind of redemption in work.
God gave work to Adam and Eve before the fall. Work was not the result of sin; it is another way of working out the image of God that resides in all of us.
Work is a sacred trust and there are a few things you can do to treat it as such in your role as a leader:
1. Yourself. I first heard the concept of “self-leadership” when I was on staff at a church. Here’s the main idea: You are responsible for carving out a life that has a rhythm that renews you. It is not anybody else’s job. As a leader you take responsibility for your own self-renewal which includes things like reading, planning alone time to do thinking and processing, and maintaining a schedule that allows you to keep your promises, which is one of the key jobs of a leader. Self-leadership will not only increase your leadership capacity and skills but will also work to prevent burnout.2. Others. Leadership is the promise of development. People need three things to grow: opportunities, challenges, and relationship. It is your job as a leader to be sure, over time, that your people are getting all three. They need opportunities to use their abilities to make a difference, challenges that stretch them without breaking them, and relationships in which they are known and celebrated and told the truth about themselves.
One of my most memorable moments working on staff at a large hospital was when I was speaking for the first time to one of the top executives. I introduced myself and she immediately said, “I know who you are.” I was 22 years old. I have never forgotten that phrase. It was powerful to be noticed and made me want to do a good job.
3. The Organization. Organizations—not just individual people—are important. Organizations, as a collection of people, allow us to accomplish things we could not do on our own. As a leader it is your responsibility to make sure that meetings are compelling, that they are places where collaborative (not consensus, which Patrick Lencioni defines as “mutually agreed upon mediocrity”) decisions are processed and made, a place where goals are set and people are held accountable for those, where short-term and long-term gains are celebrated and lack of success is autopsied and learned from.
Leadership is a sacred trust.


This Sunday Mike spoke about wealth – the top American Idol. The sermon emphasized that money is not the problem, but instead the problem is wealth. The problem with wealth is that we often view our wealth as “ours” – we fail to realize that all that we have is a gift. Because we only have the blessings that we have as a gift, God has commanded us to be generous and share these blessings with others. Our focus should not be, “What can I get?”, but instead, “What can I give – what can I do to be more generous?”

I reflected on this sermon and the scripture. Matthew 6:18-21 says:

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I am struck by the phrase, “where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” The primary problem with each idol in our lives seems to start with a problem of perspective. I tend to have a perspective that is completely focused on what I do NOT have as opposed to focusing on what I do have.

For example, when it comes to beauty – I focus on the fact that I don’t have a perfect figure, I don’t have perfect teeth, I still have acne, etc. Instead, I should focus on what I do have – the ability to run and be healthy, a face and body that is free form scars and problems. When it comes to work, I tend to focus on what I do NOT have. I focus on the fact that I am unable to work from home or be a stay at home mom. Instead, I should be thanking God for blessing me with a job that allows me to work 4 days a week, for blessing me with an outstanding boss, for giving me a position where I can help others and impact the world around me. When it comes to family, I focus on what I do not have. I often long for another baby, or sometimes I wish that my kids were better behaved. Instead, I need to be thankful that I have an incredible husband and two healthy, beautiful children. Finally, when it comes to wealth, I focus on what I do not have. I wish for a larger SUV or van to transport our family, I would love to have a bigger house, a bigger yard, & a house on a farm. I would love to travel the world, etc. I could go on and on with a long list of material possessions that I would love to have. Instead, I should be thankful that I have a house, that I have a car, that I have food to eat. As we learned on Sunday, only 8% of the people in the world have a car – so we are incredibly wealthy by comparison. Over 1billion people live on less than a dollar a day, so how could I ever complain that our family does not have enough money?

The problem with this negative perception of the world is that it seeps into every aspect of your life. I often spend time wishing that I could sing or play an instrument in our praise band, when I should be focusing on the gifts that I have already been blessed with! The other problem with this negative focus is that it creates in us a thirst that will never be quenched. If you are always focusing on what you do not have, you will never be content and fulfilled because you will never have enough. However, if you can learn to focus instead on the many blessings that you do have, you will learn that you have more than enough, and you probably have plenty left over to share.

The challenge this week is to try to change your perspective. Once a day, try to focus on something positive in your life – a blessing from God. Take time to thank God for the blessing. By doing this, you will begin to change your perspective – you will begin to focus on what you do have instead of what you lack. This will also help you begin to acknowledge that all that you do have is truly a blessing – not something that you have earned, but something to praise God and thank him for, and perhaps it is even something to share.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Pride & Family

Mike has been preaching about the Top 4 American Idols. This week he spoke about Family as an idol. This message was difficult for me because I realize that my family is an idol for me.

Luke 14:25-27 states:

Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: "If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters—yes, even his own life—he cannot be my disciple. And anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.

Mike explained that the word hate, when translated, actually means “love less”, such that Jesus was saying, If you don’t ‘love your family less than me….” Mike then explained that we often say, “I only want what is best for my family.” However, that is the problem because we should say, “God, I want what is best for your family.” When we say we want what is best for our family, we are focusing on what we want - we are being selfish, controlling, and prideful. Even with this explanation of the scripture, it is still difficult to apply to my life.

If you asked me before this sermon if my family was an idol in my life, I would insist that my family is not an idol. However, as the old saying goes, “actions speak louder than words.” Even though I insist that I trust God with my family, my actions prove otherwise. For example, I worry about whether Jacob should be in preschool, whether I am doing a disservice to my family by working outside the home, whether my children are being treated fairly by their friends, whether I have my kids involved in too many or too few activities, etc. I also try to control the outcome of my family’s lives. For example, the deepest desire of my heart is that my kids, my husband, my parents, and my family be happy. I often put pressure on myself to make events “perfect” so that my family can be happy. I think that if I can just convince my husband or my kids to change a few things about their lives, they will be happy. I actually think that I can control their happiness!

The problem with this is that it is a symptom of my pride. I never thought that I had a problem with pride, but I do. Although I say that I trust God to do what is best for my family, I believe in my heart that I not only know what is best for my family, but I believe that I can control my family to ensure that only the best things happen for my family.

C.S. Lewis wrote:

According to Christian teachers, the essential vice, the utmost evil, is Pride. Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind.

* * * *

The Christians are right: it is Pride which has been the chief cause of misery in every nation and every family since the world began. Other vices may sometimes bring people together: you may find good fellowship and jokes and friendliness among drunken people or unchaste people. But pride always means enmity - it is enmity. And not only enmity between man and man, but enmity to God.

Because of Mike’s sermon, I have realized that my desire that my family be “happy” is what I want for my family. I need to prayerfully ask God to forgive me for my pride, and I need to trust God with the family that he has blessed me to care for. I have learned that God did not put me on this Earth as an “owner” of my family, but I am instead entrusted to care for them and love them.

I would like to challenge each of you to prayerfully consider the idols that you may have in your life. In doing so, consider what your actions say about your idols, not just what you would tell others about idols in your life. Your idol may not be your family, but may be beauty, work, or something else. Ask God to show you your idols and to help you rid yourself of the idols that stand in between you and a closer relationship with God.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Where Is Patrick?

Jacob had a preschool party for St. Patrick's Day on Thursday. Jacob was not motivated to go to school, so Mike told Jacob that he needed to go to school to celebarte St. Patrick's day. Jacob asked, "Is it Patrick's birthday?" Mike tried to explain that there is no Patrick - that it is a holiday. Just before they arrived at school, Jacob said, "I can't wait to see what Patrick looks like." When I got home from work, I asked Jacob if they had a party. He said, "No, Patrick was not there."

I am very behind on everything that I need to do. We have been sick and work has been crazy due to some changes that are happening there. I haven't ordered pictures since Christmas, and I have not updated pictures since then. I barely have time to keep up with little things like laundry.

I was doing great on my workout routine until I got sick two weeks ago. I was going to the gym 4 days a week & exercising some at home on the other days. I felt much better, but it is hard to get up at 5:30 am to exercise. The other frustrating part is that I have not lost any weight!

LASIK has been great. I went back to the doctor and he said my eyes are still dry, but not extremely dry. He said that he thinks my eyes will continue to improve. He is very happy with how well I am doing, especially since my prescription was so bad before the laser surgery.

This April will be my 10 year college reunion. It is hard to believe that I have been out of college for 10 years. I hope that I will be able to see a lot of my friends, although it seems that some people will not be able to make it.

I dyed Easter eggs with the kids this week. That was probably not the best activity for a three year old and a not quite 2 year old. The kids lost interest quickly, and we ended up with more broken/cracked eggs than not.

I think that Maria's age is my favorite age. She is so much fun right now. She is learning to talk and is really cute when she says certain words. She still loves to be hugged and adores us. She is also happy the majority of the time and rarely has temper tantrums. I am trying to enjoy this stage because soon enough we will begin potty training, tantrums, independence, etc.

We had book club last week. We discussed the Memory Keepers Daughter. I think most of us enjoyed the book; however, some felt that the author was too descriptive and too wordy at times. Next month we will discuss A Child Called It. I think it will be a very difficult book for me to read, not only because I have kids, but because I am very compassionate.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Prayer: Put Your Best Face Forward

I love social networking sites like myspace ( I love these sites because I have found old friends and met lots of interesting people. For those of you that are unfamiliar with these sites, you can upload pictures of yourself, design a page with colors you like, and set up a profile with your interests and facts about you (favorite books, tv shows, etc.)

This week I thought a lot about myspace. One thing that is so striking about myspace is that the profiles always seem to paint such a positive picture of the person. In fact, I would venture a guess that most of the descriptions on myspace are not so much descriptions of who we are, but are instead descriptions of who we want the world to believe we are. For example, if you read my profile, you will find out that I work as an attorney at a job I love, that I have a beautiful family that I adore, and that I love to read, have intellectual debates, and drink flavored coffee and tea. Every picture on the page is a flattering photo that captures either my family or me at our best – smiling and happy for the camera. They will also find that I have over 130 “friends.”

Everything that is on my profile is true and accurate. However, those that are closest to me know that simply because the words and pictures that are on the page are true and accurate does not mean that the profile paints a complete picture of who I am. My closest family and friends will tell you that I am not always smiling. They also know that sometimes I get frustrated with my family, and sometimes, despite all of my friends, I feel lonely. I often feel guilty about working outside the home and feeling torn between my career and my family. And although I do enjoy a good intellectual debate, sometimes I am just tired and not up for it.

I know that at this point you are probably wanting me to get to the point. The point is this – myspace is sort of like a personal ad. If you are smart, you are going to “advertise” the best qualities about yourself and your life. However, this is not a phenomena unique to social networking sites. The majority of us lead our lives the way that we treat a social networking site. We let others see the part of us that we want them to see. We show them the characteristics of us that we feel are most appealing. We do this in an attempt to gain love, affection, respect, power, and status. I think that we also try to do this with God. We spend much of our prayer life trying to show God the part of us that we think he wants to see. We are not “lying” to others or to God when we do this - we are simply not revealing the whole of ourselves.

Psalm 17:1-5 (The Message) states:

1-2 Listen while I build my case, God, the most honest prayer you'll ever hear.
Show the world I'm innocent—
in your heart you know I am.
3 Go ahead, examine me from inside out,
surprise me in the middle of the night—
You'll find I'm just what I say I am.
My words don't run loose.
4-5 I'm not trying to get my way
in the world's way.
I'm trying to get your way,
your Word's way.
I'm staying on your trail;
I'm putting one foot
In front of the other.
I'm not giving up.

I think this scripture speaks for itself. How many of us can say to God, “examine me from the inside out, surprise me in the middle of the night – You’ll find I’m just what I say I am.” How many of us could say that to our nearest and closest friends and family?

In order to grow, we have to be real. Being real means that sometimes we have to reveal to God and to others, as well as acknowledge to ourselves, that we have weaknesses, fears, sins, and problems. It is only when we are honest with ourselves, others, and God that we can begin to change.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Prayer: Silence

I am reading a challenging and fascinating book, A Center of Quiet: Hearing God When Life Is Noisy by David Runcorn. The book is great, but I can’t seem to get past the first chapter. I have this problem because the book challenges the reader to spend some “quiet time” alone with God daily. I know many of you may not find this shocking, but when this book talks about quite time, it is not referring to prayer time (when I am talking to God), and it is not referring to Bible study. In fact, the author points out that the evangelical style of “quite time” is the discipline of daily prayer and Bible reading. Although these disciplines are essential to the Christian, and have their place, what is often missed by many of us is the need to actually sit in SILENCE and open ourselves up to God. The author states that he learned to be disciplined and structured in his prayer and Bible reading from evangelical Christians, but it was the Catholic and Orthodox traditions of the church that revealed the need to follow Jesus into the desert so that he could learn to be alone and silent before God.

This is difficult for me. I am such an extrovert that I hate to be alone. And, to make matters worse, when I try to be silent, my mind becomes even noisier as I think of the many things I need to do that day. All of these are obstacles to silence, not to mention the fact that I work as an attorney, have a husband and two small children, along with numerous other responsibilities.

According to the book, this is normal. The author also understands that busy people may not be able to run off for 2 hours of silence. However, he encourages the reader to think of a few of the moments and places that the reader could be quite during the day.

No matter how busy we are, we can each find 5 minutes in our day to be quiet. Once you have found this time, try this exercise from the book:

Choose a comfortable but alert posture. Sit quietly for a moment, letting your body settle down. Let your breathing find its rhythm. Deepen your breathing slightly. Let your body relax and then breath in with the prayer “Lord Jesus Christ” and breathe out “Have mercy on me.” By doing this, you will be inviting Christ to clear out the clutter and noise within. Quietly repeat the prayer for a while on the rhythm of your breathing. When you are ready, be completely silent for a moment, and then, if you wish, close with a prayer of your own.