I love to receive Christmas cards! I know it’s fun to make fun of them, but I enjoy following people’s families through the years, especially those who live far away. Every year, I always read my parents’ stack of Christmas cards, too.
One Christmas, I was particularly lonely, and I went over to my parents’ house. People always give them a lot food at Christmas, so I loaded up on Italian pizzelles and sugar cookies, and sat down to read cards. I was feeling sorry for myself and expected to see a stack of cards that did nothing but celebrate marriages and births and brag about superstar children. Yet as I worked my way through the cards, that was not what stood out to me at all. There was an older woman who’d lost her husband that year and was also losing her sight. A young woman was raising children on her own after the death of her husband. Actually, quite a few people had lost spouses, and many were coping with failing health.
It’s that time of year again! At my workplace, many of us are dreading the annual performance review process. It can be awkward, nerve-wracking, and — let’s face it — how many of us really get a whole lot out of it?
I’ve worked for a variety of managers and experienced a range of styles while going through this process. Usually the managers are sober, but one was slightly drunk. At least she gave me a good evaluation! While I always hope to receive the highest rating possible and a minimum amount of criticism, I’ve finally realized that’s not the optimal situation for my growth. Though it can be difficult and painful to receive criticism, I can’t improve without specific feedback.
Here’s what I’ve learned about receiving performance reviews: Continue reading
While eating soup is like a party in your mouth, “cooking the soup” isn’t always a joyous experience. Sometimes the challenges of work get the best of me. But a book that my friend Susan recommended has been extraordinarily helpful. Because He Loves Me by Elyse M. Fitzpatrick shows how the Gospel transforms our daily life. Before you yawn, think to yourself that you already know the Gospel, and click to another website, please hear me out.
Here’s how I apply the Gospel to the challenges I face at work, in the framework that Elyse Fitzpatrick presents:
Incarnation – Jesus humbled Himself and became a lowly servant. He knows what it is like to be human, to be tired, to be sick, and to work. He worked as a carpenter, and He likely experienced the drudgery, monotony, and pressure that almost everyone endures at one point or another at work. During His life on earth, he also suffered betrayal, misunderstandings, and false accusations. No unfair situation at my workplace is beyond His understanding.
His Sinless Life – Jesus lived perfectly, obeying every law in my place, so I don’t have to strive for perfection on my own. I am also free from the pressure of giving the appearance of perfection. I don’t have to worry about looking like I have it all together all the time. I can be honest with people and admit my mistakes. Jesus lived a perfect life, and I have His record.
The Crucifixion – At work, I am trying to prove that I’m a success (so much so that success is my idol). But the cross proves that I’m a failure. However, Christ bore the wrath that I deserve. I’m completely forgiven for my idolatry, selfishness, ungratefulness, and complaining.
The Resurrection – Because God raised Jesus from the dead, I know that (1) His sacrifice has been accepted by God, and (2) God has forgiven me. Sin no longer has power over me. I no longer need to prove my worth to anyone — not to my boss, not to my coworkers, not to my LinkedIn connections, not to God, and not to myself. By the power of the Holy Spirit, I can change and become more like Christ. Through His strength, I can go to my desk each day with the mindset of a servant, working with gratefulness for the job and the resources that God has generously provided. By His power, I can reflect His peace, joy, and love as I participate in meetings, answer e-mails, and field unexpected interruptions.
The Ascension – Jesus is at the right hand of the Father. He loves me and will bring me to be with Him one day. He is speaking to the Father on my behalf, sustaining me with grace and mercy. My career is not at the mercy of economic forces, the whims of management, or the number of late hours I can put in at the office. It is being directed by the CEO of the universe, who understands me and loves me. His plan for me is bigger than this week’s PowerPoint or next month’s budget, but He uses even those things to help me become like Christ.
Taking brief moments to consider all of these aspects of the Gospel throughout my workday is transforming my outlook. I am a work in progress! I pray that you will also experience the transforming power of the Gospel, no matter what challenges you face.
How do you apply the Gospel to your life?
What is your calling?
It was a privilege to invest a whole day at the Collyde Summit in Princeton, NJ, thinking about this question and hearing different perspectives. Here are some of the highlights:
Rob Cruver, Senior Pastor of Zarephath Christian Church – What is your calling? It’s two words, said by Jesus to His disciples in Matthew 4: “Follow Me.” Jesus is asking us to do this every day, and our calling never changes. This is about denying ourselves. It’s not about glamor, accolades, resumes, or career paths. But Jesus offers us FULL LIFE. I love the way Rob Cruver describes “calling.” It brings so much clarity to life. Continue reading
The danger of frost is over, so I decided it would be okay to plant seeds outside. Being the planner that I am, I read the back of the seed packets and started looking forward to seeing my Columbine seedlings sprout in 22-30 days and my impatiens germinate in 10 days. I was trying to guess how long it would be before I saw blooms.
But a squirrel came by looking for lunch. He dug up my dirt and seeds and threw out my plans.
It’s gardening, these things happen, and I got over it. A gardener advised me to start over, putting chicken wire on top of my pots to keep the animals away. Meanwhile, this experience got me thinking about timelines. Sometimes I feel as though the flowerpot of my life has been knocked over. Things often don’t go as I plan, and even good changes can be surprising and overwhelming.
When I think about timelines now, I remember a snowy day this past winter when I helped paint a friend’s house. I was with some ladies who have more life experience than I do. We were painting a little girl’s room a bold pink. The conversation turned toward the pregnancy of a mutual friend, and the best age to become a grandparent. In all of my planning and dreaming about the best age to get married and have children, the timing of becoming a grandparent had never even crossed my mind! I couldn’t imagine trying to plan that.
I said something like, “Well, things don’t always go according to our timelines,” because I was disappointed that I hadn’t received something I’d wanted yet. The two ladies agreed. And as they dipped their brushes in the bubble-gum pink paint, I thought about their lives, and I knew they understood. Each of them could have told me how much easier my life was than theirs, but neither did. We just painted together, and I found comfort in being with people who know that God is sovereign over the timelines of our lives.
In my previous post, I discussed the most powerful Person in my network – God. Now I’d like to talk about the importance of networking with less influential people, like CEO’s, administrative assistants, and financial analysts.
Over the past few months, I’ve paid closer attention to people and noticed four different philosophies of networking.
1) Networking is all about me and what I can gain. These are the people who don’t make an effort to meet anyone new or stay in touch with old colleagues until they are looking for another job. Or worse, these are the people who do a small favor for you, like making a ten minute phone call, and then expect you to create a report that takes hours. They are always thinking, “What’s in it for me?” Continue reading
Many savvy professionals say that they don’t worry about losing their jobs, because they can simply pick up the phone and call people in their network. In fact, I’ve heard people claim that they are so well-networked, they’ve never had to apply for any job after the first one.
As part of an assignment for class, I listed everyone in my professional network and assessed the strength of our relationships and their ability to influence my career. Let me tell you, this exercise did not serve to reduce my worry about a potential job loss! The U.S. economy is bad, many companies are cutting jobs, and, wow, I have gaping holes in my network! As if I didn’t have enough on my mind already, now I can worry about my lack of connections to C-suite executives.
Several weeks after this exercise, I realized I left off my list the most influential Person in my network – God. Kingdoms, nations, and corporations do not rise or fall outside of His dominion. He is has power over the grandest schemes of man, yet He is intimately involved in the smallest details of our lives. And I don’t even have to call His admin and angle for fifteen minutes His time. In fact, He reached out to me first. He so greatly desired a restored relationship with me, that He sent His Son Jesus to die for my sins and raised Jesus from the dead. Now I can talk to Him every day, whenever I want.
Because I am networked with God, I don’t have to worry about my job anymore. My future is in the hands of the most powerful Person in the universe, who loves me and wants the best for me.
(Of course, trusting God isn’t a free pass to avoid networking with people. I wrote about networking here, and I’ll have more to say on the subject in future posts.)
I think it’s because of the anticipation – looking forward to the sprout and the blossom. Everyone needs something to look forward to, whether it’s finishing up a big project at work, attending a friend’s wedding, feeding a baby solid food, or seeing a flower bloom.
I found these super-convenient seed starter kits at Lowe’s for about $5 – $6.
I think my grandparents use egg cartons, which would be free. But with the starter kits, the seeds grew in a nice little green house, and I didn’t have to water them. They were also very easy to use indoors since the dirt came in little pellets, to which I simply added water. There was no clean up involved.
The people of Israel are having second thoughts. Making Saul king had seemed like a great idea after the recent victory against the Ammonites. But now their departing prophet Samuel has just delivered a speech reminding them of the consequences of disobedience to God. To emphasize his point, Samuel has called on God to send thunder and rain. The soaking wet people are shaking in their sandals. Beyond concern for the ruined wheat harvest, they now recognize the future of their nation is at stake. Here’s where the story picks up in 1 Samuel 12:19-25 (ESV):
And all the people said to Samuel, ‘Pray for your servants to the Lord your God, that we may not die, for we have added to all our sins this evil, to ask for ourselves a king.‘ And Samuel said to the people, ‘Do not be afraid; you have done all this evil. Yet do not turn aside from following the Lord, but serve the Lord with all your heart. And do not turn aside after empty things that cannot profit or deliver, for they are empty. For the Lord will not forsake his people, for his great name’s sake, because it has pleased the Lord to make you a people for himself. Moreover, as for me, far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you, and I will instruct you in the good and the right way. Only fear the Lord and serve him faithfully with all your heart. For consider what great things he has done for you. But if you still do wickedly, you shall be swept away, both you and your king.’
Samuel exhorts the people, do not be afraid, do not turn aside from following the Lord, and do not turn aside after empty things. Aren’t these common reactions once we’ve recognized our sin? I know these describe my tendencies. I fear that God won’t forgive me, even though intellectually I know there is no sin too powerful for Christ’s death and resurrection. I’m so ashamed that I try to ignore my guilt and keep on sinning. So I turn aside from following the Lord and turn after empty things.
Until the point when I realize that the Lord will not forsake His people. (See also Hebrews 13:5 and Romans 8:1-3) Instead of fearing sin, I fear the Lord. I consider what great things He has done for me. I humbly ask for forgiveness, and instead of following my first inclination toward more sin, I turn toward the Lord and try again to serve Him with my whole heart.
As we reflect on our sin this Good Friday, let us not become so discouraged by our failures that we give up and turn aside from serving the Lord. Instead let us consider the great things that God has done for us in the work of Christ on the cross. Let that spur us on to faithful service, secure in the knowledge that the Lord will not forsake His people.