Monday, August 31, 2009

Mission Minded

'...And who knows but that you have come to royal position for such a time as this?' - Esther 4:14

I've always loved the story of Esther. Perhaps its my love for any "against all odds" story. Or the fact that the hero a strong woman. I've never fully explored the reasons why - all I know is that I can't think of a single other Old Testament story that captures my heart in quite the same way.

If I was going to choose a rival for the story of Esther, though, it would have to be the story of Abigail (See I Samuel 25). Only briefly mentioned in Scripture, this is a woman that saved her husband (who doesn't seem to have been the nicest of guys) and her household from almost assured destruction at the hands of the anointed king, David. Perhaps Abigail is the reason for the saying "a man's heart is through his stomach" for after assuaging the king's anger with food, she would eventually marry him.

However, while Abigail and Esther share many things in common, namely they were both beautiful, savvy and aware of the power of a cooked meal, perhaps their single most important shared characteristic was that they remained focused on the mission God gave them. In Abigail's case, she desired to share her loved ones and her estate; in Esther's case, she needed to save an entire nation. Both of them set out to do that to which they had been called, when from a human perspective there was little chance of success. They did so because they realized that perhaps God had bigger plans for their lives than they had envisioned. Even though they may have disagreed, God had uniquely positioned each of them to accomplish His purpose "in such a time as this."

Where has God placed you during this time? Is there something to which He has called you that you are hesitant to pursue because you are not confident of your own abilities? Are you pursuing your own plans and hoping God will bless them? Let it not be! Find out what He wants for your life - and then remained single-minded about pursuing it - as you pursue Him. The good news is that if He has called you to it, He has also equipped you to accomplish it. Also, regardless of the outome, a Christ-follower can be confident that even if things don't turn out as planned, He is with you (Heb. 13:5). After all, it is better to seemingly fail doing God's work, then it is to be an utter success doing something different.

The reason that Esther and Abigail were both able to accomplish what they did is because when God called them to something, they both remained focused on that mission. In a society where women were rarely afforded power, through these two women, God changed the hearts of kings. May He do the same with His people today who are committed to Him and who can not be swayed to pursue anything but the mission He has given them.

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose." - Jim Elliott

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Thursday, August 27, 2009

Overwhelmed by God

For years, I 've told people that I'm a champion worrier. I can take a seemingly innocuous situation and come up with reasons to be concern. This morning, for example, I walked into a kitchen full of ants enjoying the remnants of one of my dog's dinner. Not only is this disgusting, but for worry-worts like me, it makes my question whether or not I'm a good keeper of my family's house, whether I'm a good pet parent, and about a thousand other concerns that have absolutely nothing to do with the ants' march into my kitchen. To see my worrying in its finest, is really a sight to behold - and not a good one as my husband can attest.

A few years ago it was impressed upon me that despite my natural ability to earn a gold medal in worrying, it really wasn't a godly characteristic in my life. While I was quite willing to trust in God for salvation, I wasn't doing such a good job of trusting Him with life's little mishaps. So began a process of learning to turn things over to Him - and of knowing that they were in His hands from the beginning anyway.

Recently, though, I've learned it's not just about giving things over to God, however, it's about taking all He has to offer instead. For, as John Montgomery from California Baptist University recently said, I should "be overwhelmed by God instead of being overwhelmed by life." God not only takes our burdens upon Him but he offers His grace, mercy and love in exchange. When we are engaged in all that God is, our problems not only seem small in comparison, but they are overshadowed by the magnitude of Him. We are amazed by His mercy, in wonder of His grace, and overcome by His love. When all we see is Him, we cease to focus on our concerns.

The truth is this is not easy, but it's not because of any insufficiency on His part. It's because we choose to focus on other things. However, the more we choose His bigness over our smallness, the closer our perspective is to being aligned with His. And the more we do this, the more He consumes our life, and the more others can see just how overwhelming God is.

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Thursday, August 6, 2009

Bailing on Bail Outs

Lately, it seems that anyone and everyone is a potential target of the government's generosity. The automakers, the banks, any distressed industry can make their case that they are "too large to fail." Compelled by a fear that the bad economy may get worse unless Congress or the President intervenes, money is dolled out under the auspices of preventing collapse.

Much has been written about whether this is the correct or incorrect use of federal funds, and I'm not going to take on that task here. However, what I haven't read much about is what this does to the "national consciousness." In other words, when Ford, Citbank, AIG and others aren't held liable for the choices that they've made, why should anyone think that they will be personally responsible for their decisions too.

A great example of this is found in a college graduate that recently filed suit against her alma mater because she wasn't able to find a job. Among her reasons that a job should have been forthcoming was that she had stellar attendance and a GPA of 2.7. Now, I'm not qualified to comment on what the college did or did not do in regards to providing her job placement services, but at the very least, I'm thinking maybe they should have spent more time on math. After all, thinking that a below B average is in demand in an economy that is quickly approaching double-digit unemployment, doesn't add up.

However, it turns out this young lady may have just been ahead of the curve. Recently, a coalition has been formed for unemployed young people to become the latest recipients of the government's largese. It's easy to imagine that soon people will want to receive financial payment from the government for anything that goes wrong in their life. After all, even if the government can't be "blamed," they can still make ammends for the disadvantages we suffer. Those that receive rewards are no longer those that make the most of the hand they're dealt, but those that can make the most legally compelling case.

And the point is this, I don't know whether the economics work out in favor or against the recent government bailouts (I have opinions, but I haven't done the supply and demand curves.) However, when well-intention ideas take the turn for the worse, we have to realize that there's a limit to their implementation. When an idea that was originally intended to prevent economic collapse, becomes a license to limit personal responsibility, than we must bail on it. Otherwise we will not only be facing a financial collapse, but a societal one as well.


Monday, August 3, 2009

The Important 2%

Recently I learned that chimpanzees and humans share the majority of their DNA. 98% of our genetic material is the same, what sets us apart is just two-percent. However, this two percent different is what allows humans to more effectively communicate, to form relational groups, and to do all those other things that chimpanzees are unable to achieve. It's a small difference in our make-up but a significant one.*

In life, there are a lot of things that are small but significant. One chromosomal deficiency can cause a lifetime of challenge. One point uptick in a person's IQ can certify them as a genius. A single digit change on a lottery ticket can be the cause of an expected windfall. If we think about it, its the small differences that really determine who we are. In business terms we call this a company's positioning. It's what sets them apart in the mind of their customers, as opposed to the thousand of competitors that they can choose from. Small but significant differences is what enables Proctor & Gamble to have more detergent brands than a conglomerate should rightly be able to manage. It's a slight change in formula that makes the laundry go from the "whitest whites" to the "line dry freshness." To the producers, it may be a minute adjustment. To the brand loyalists that buy it, it makes all the difference.

In a way, this illustration is demonstrative of this blog's purpose. For a long time, I've written about two different areas of my life. In publishing terms, my topics would have been classified under "Business" and "Christian Living." Both of these topics are important to me; both contribute to the person I am. What I've recently realized is that its their overlap, that small but significant areas in which the two merge, that is my sweet spot. I can't stop writing about business; it is after all, how I make my living. However, it would be equally impossible for me to stop writing about my Christian walk; it makes life worth living. They are two divergent topics and while the overlap may be small, may be just two-percent, it is, I believe significant.

So the purpose of this post is to prepare you for what's to come. In a lot of ways, I've kept these two topics separate...and where it makes sense, I'll probably continue to do so. However, for those who read me regularly, be prepared for a merging of the two. I will write more about organizational life, including the means and methods for effective communication, because like it or not, it's the arena in which most of us spend the majority of our days. Also, because its in this context that I can add the most value, that I can contribute in unique and significant ways. However, the end-game has, and will continue to be for me, the "better things" that lie ahead. I can not write about the here and now and forsake the then and there. It's an unconventional merging, but one that I'm hopeful will be of value. If not, I'm sure that there will be lessons in the failing as well.

2%....It doesn't seem like much. To the God who made the chimpanzee and the human being though, He knew it was enough to radically separate us. Maybe it will also be enough to dramatically change our life at work, as well as how we work at living a life that pleases Him.

*I've been reliably informed that the science behind this discovery is questionable and that perhaps only portions of the DNA code were compared to arrive at this figure. Since the post stands apart from this fact, I'm not going to get into an exact deduction. Suffice it to say - God's creation is marvelous whether the similarity is 2% or 60%,

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Better Things Ahead: August 2009

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Better Things Ahead