Friday, June 30, 2006

More Job Satisfaction

I remember the colonel in charge of the camp in "Bridge On the River Kwai". Anytime he addressed the prisoners he would end it with, " your work". Of course, this was always ironic because these were prisoners of war forced into labor in the jungle.

My working conditions aren't so bad. I don't worry too much about catching malaria while I work. I don't even worry too much about breaking a sweat. About the biggest danger might be a smelly bathroom shortly after lunchtime. It really beats tarring roofs in Montgomery, Alabama in August. In fact, I have it pretty cushy compared to most of the world.

I just got my raise from my manager. I got 3%! As she pulled out the sheet informing me of my increase, she tried to soften the blow by telling me that I was rated as having met expectations but that, unfortunately, that only meant 3%. I think I surprised her by being happy about it.

The way I see it, this is better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick. And it is further proof that there is no monetary incentive to truly excel here. I plod along and do good work. I meet expectations. I get 3%. If I really went all-out and put in maximum effort would I get 5%? It's not really worth it.

I blogged on this before, but I didn't really have an exit plan at the time. Now that I got accepted into Shepherd's I feel like this further confirms that I'm in the right place. Amanda would like to see me go somewhere else and make more money. To be fair, she is not your typical money-grubbing American woman at all. In fact, she knows how to be content with little as she certainly didn't have much when I met her. But we all would like to have a little more money, I think. The point is that it's not about the money. I make plenty of it. My coworkers might be surprised to read that, but I do believe I make plenty. I'm already in the top .8% of the richest people in the world.

No, it's not about the money. It's about my situation. Could the environment be better? Absolutely! But I don't think there is an ideal job environment. What I do know is that this environment will let me keep meeting expectations while I also work on my MDiv. And that's as good as gold to me.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Evangelistic Style

I'm excited to report that I signed up for my first class. I have an apologetics class every weeknight from 6-9 PM 7/31-8/11. This will be an intense time, but I'm looking forward to it. I think that Amanda will be out of town for part of this, so that will help me out too. One of my textbooks is about 5 different styles for apologetics.

My previous post with the quote from Jeremiah had inspiration from a John MacArthur sermon regarding evangelism. In it he made a great point. Let's look at John the Baptist's style:

Mat 3:7-10 ESV
(7) But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
(8) Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
(9) And do not presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father,' for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham.
(10) Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

Imagine someone who just came out of the Willow Creek class on relational evangelism doing this. Imagine if I took this attitude with my Roman Catholic family. Absurd, isn't it? Yet John didn't pull any punches. This is a guy who wore uncomfortable clothes and lived off of locusts and wild honey. Apparently he didn't care so much about appearances and niceties. He just wanted to tell them the gospel.

Obviously we take a different approach with those who come with the attitude of the Pharisees compared to how we talk to someone who is seeking. However, in the end, we still need to share the same message -- we're all sinners who deserve and will receive condemnation apart from the blood of Christ. Believe in Christ and put Him on the throne of your life and be saved. There's just no getting around that, is there?

Heart Transplant

Jer 9:1 ESV
(1) Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people!

I read that and am really humbled and saddened. I do not have that kind of heart for the lost. Sure, I work in my ministry and help those who are in bondage to sin. I guess that's a form of helping the lost. However, do I really wish that my head were waters so that I could cry more for them?

To be honest, I don't do a lot of gut-wrenching praying over my students. This concerns me a bit. It's so easy to think of these men as just email addresses. These people hurt. They came to our ministry because they saw no other way. It's good that they want to have their hope in Jesus. That is altogether right that they should do so. But what do I give them?

Sure, I write decent responses. I'm slowly learning how to be gentle and gracious. But am I doing it just out of a sense of duty or because I sincerely desire to see captives set free?

I think part of the problem is that my heart grows accustomed to feelings that I develop. By that I mean that I tend to always have some dissatisfaction with my spiritual life. I keep yearning for more. I think this is good, but I also need to recognize why I started something in the first place. I started working with SCF because I wanted to help people. I think part of me also wanted to be recognized and to be an authority. Now that I'm the Executive Director of The Lord's Table I realize that, as Solomon would put it, this is vanity. Being in charge is not all it's cracked up to be. But I know that, at the time, I was the best person to do this and I responded to the call.

Anyhow, I always have this yearning for more. I am glad that I hunger Him. But do I hunger for Him to the exclusion of other things? Do I hunger for God more than for food? How about more than sex? Video games? Learning the guitar? Family time? Ministry time?

Getting back to the original point, I just wonder about how much I really have a heart for the lost. I want to talk about the gospel more. I'm going to seminary because I want to be part of God's plan to change lives through the gospel. I want to spend time with those who do not have a relationship with God so that I can be a part of sharing the good news with them. I want to find gracious, loving, and effective ways to evangelize.

So I guess I do have a heart for the lost. But shouldn't it burn more?

Happy News

I love good news. Who doesn't? Of course, the best good news is the Good News and I love sharing that too, though I wonder sometimes about my sincerity in writing that since I often don't share it as much as I think I should.

We got all kinds of good news yesterday. The first is that I got accepted to take classes at Shepherds Theological Seminary. I'm very excited to get started with that. And if I can do 2 classes/semester and even if I only do one class in the summer and fall breaks, I will finish in 4 and a half years. That assumes that I get full credit for my work at SCF, which they assured me that I would. If I manage to get in 2 classes in each break I would be done in less than 4 years. That would be pretty exciting. Of course, I write all this now and I haven't started living it yet. I haven't tried to learn Greek or Hebrew. I don't think I ever wrote a term paper as an undergrad, so this will be a new experience for me.

The other good news is that we finally have a guardian for Lily. We've dragged our feet on this for a couple of years because we didn't have a good candidate. None of her grandparents would be a good option for a variety of reasons. We considered her aunts, but there were problems there. So we found some friends from church that are willing to do it. I try to imagine Lily being raised in their household and I feel pretty good about it.

Overall, things are looking pretty good here. When I take a long view like this I can more easily ignore how tough it was last night with Lily waking us up about every 45 minutes with a coughing fit. She's still not well today, but hopefully is on the mend. I can get past the frustrations with testing a product that doesn't work very well. I can get past the frustrations of all the silliness at the Bank. It's amazing how hope for the future gets us through each day. And I think that's what Jesus was trying to help us understand. I know that's what got Paul through his days.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Internal Censoring

It's interesting that as my readership expands up to maybe a dozen people I find myself censoring what I will write. I might write something that has to do with a family member and then think, "Oh, does he read my blog?"

Of course, being online means that anyone can read this. But I strongly doubt that anyone combs the internet looking for my blog. I'd like to think that there are dozens of people who care about what I think, but I'm really not that naive and I hope I'm not that narcissistic.

This whole blog thing is really fascinating to me. It started off as just some random thoughts. Then I got some encouragement from friends who also happen to be coworkers (a much smaller subset of people). Then I started to see this as a place to have fun. Then it became a place to share the gospel (the two go hand-in-hand). And so on.

I guess this really covers the whole "begin with the end in mind" mentality. If you just start something and let the river take you where it may then you don't know where you're going to end up. You might find yourself paddling against the current after it's too late. I'm sure some early explorers on the Niagra River learned that the hard way.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

A Time to Plan

My company very generously paid for us to have an intense version of the Franklin Covey "FOCUS" workshop. Basically, this was a review for me because I listened to the tapes for the Franklin Quest about 9 years ago. But I also know that I wasn't living it and that I needed some tips for how to make this work for me with my PDA.

There is something wonderfully exciting about the prospect of actually having a handle on the things that you want to accomplish each day. It's also wonderful to have hope to get them done. I often have a nagging sense of things that I should be doing. It's nice to get back to a framework that will let me rest confidently knowing that I got the important things done.

So now the question is what do I consider important. The last time I tried to do this I had no spiritual foundation. Now I have a much clearer picture of what I want to accomplish in my life. I want to honor God with it. I want to be a godly husband and father. I want to be a good leader with my small group and with SCF. I want to be a good student if I get into seminary (wonder how that's going). And, I do want to be a good employee as well. I want to get done what I need to get done.

I'm excited to have this new framework. It's interesting that I was just in Ecclesiastes 3, which is the famous chapter sung by the Byrds. There really is a time for everything. I want to make the most of each day and make sure I'm doing whatever is in season for me.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Traditional Networking

I've had what I like to call a "networking day". What may seem like idle chit-chat actually seems to go a long way toward being more effective at work. I used to feel very guilty about having days where I just stand around and chat a lot. But I've learned that it is very important to have those connections with other people. This becomes especially important when it comes time to scrounge for parts.

I did get some things done. Now I'm in limbo because I'll be rushing home soon so I can get online for a conference call. So I have that excuse of not wanting to start anything new because I practically have one foot out the door.

The point is that I wish we had an entry in our time tracking system for "networking with coworkers". It's amazing how much more helpful someone can be when you've already made a personal connection.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Smarter Than a Beetle?

About a month ago I had a Saturday with Lily. We ended up stopping by the Cary Farmer's Market and on a whim I bought a couple of basil plants and one parsley plant. I planted them in a big pot on our deck and they are doing wonderfully. There is a certain degree of pride that comes from growing something and I can see how gardening can be habit-forming, though I'm not quite there yet.

But you might imagine my dismay when I saw Japanese Beetles devouring one of my basil plants. This happened this past Saturday and when I called my dad for Father's Day I asked him about what I could do about it. He recommended some good pesticide that I might try. He also let me know about the sum of the Japanese Beetle's existence. It seems that they live for 2-3 weeks, try to eat as much as they can, mate, and then die.

It's sort of interesting to consider this in the light of:

1 Corinthians 15:31-33

31I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." 33Do not be deceived: "Bad company ruins good morals."

I think back to my life before I really got serious about Jesus. I pretty much lived to eat and hoped that I would have opportunities for sex. I don't ever want to live like a Japanese Beetle again.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Feeling a Little Flat

I notice that I'm really out of the blogging groove. But I think part of the problem is my lack of angst. I guess this is a good thing. It's easy to read my blog and think that I'm about to bring a gun to work or maybe just up and quit, but that is not the case.

What's interesting is that I lack angst, but I feel a certain restlessness. I guess that's pretty normal when you have something new to look forward to. I also notice that I'm not channelling this restlenssness very well. I should be playing my guitar or polishing my skills with the harmonica, but instead I played some Gran Tursimo 4 last night. I know there isn't anything wrong with the occasional video game, but after doing that I feel kind of empty. It's like I had a whole meal of marshmallow peeps.

My Bible reading is changing too. I'm still doing three days each day, but now I'm in Isaiah instead of the history. I think this time through Isaiah is more meaningful than previous times, but I feel a need to slow down and go through this book slowly and take in all the notes in my various study Bibles. But I'm not doing that because I just want to get through the Bible one more time. I'm not sure if that is the best attitude here.

What I do know is that I'm incredibly blessed. I am in the top .8% of the richest people in the world according to this site. I have a wonderful wife and daughter. I love where I live. And, most importantly, I'm saved by grace. I would do well to meditate on that truth for a while rather than constantly chasing.

It's All Greek to Me

I'm starting to understand that expression a little bit more. I'm getting antsy to start preparing for my classes. I started looking into the resources that we will use to learn Greek. It's pretty intimidating to see words written just in Greek.

Now the alphabet doesn't scare me. I know a good bit of it after getting my degree in Chemical Engineering. But I still wonder about learning this new language. But I also know that it will certainly help me to better handle God's Word.

I told Amanda that my goal is to approach these lessons like Hermione Granger. I'm not sure if I'll be quite that prepared, but I do want to make sure I make the most of it. If I'm going to spend $450/class, I want to make sure that I do it right. Funny how much more seriously I plan to take this than when I was an undergrad.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

In the Mail

My application for Shepherd's is in the mail. The application fee is only $30, but there is a sense of being committed now. I assume that I'll get in, but I don't want to count on anything or buy any books until I'm sure. All I do know is that I'm excited about how this is all going to play out. I'm excited about what I will learn. I'm curious about how I'll do this in a mechanical sense. Will I take notes in a regular notebook? On my PDA? On a laptop?

It's strange to think of myself as a student again. But that's what I aspire to be. And it's strange to think of myself as ever having another career. But that too is what I aspire to do. Wow.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Beach Nuts

I write this sitting on our bed near the end of a week in the Outer Banks with my wife's family. I've managed to avoid any serious sunburns, which is nice. I also managed to make it to the beach daily. Some days I took my morning walk on the beach. Other days I went with Lily, who is overcoming the fear of the surf she developed on Sunday when she plopped down on her bottom. My feeling is that a vacation should be spent doing things that are particular to the area.

However, my wife's family doesn't see things this way. My mother-in-law has only been twice now. Mind you, we are about 3 minutes away on foot, so going isn't exactly difficult. She prefers to nap a lot. Others spend most of their time reading. At least Amanda used the pool quite a lot. I just don't get the attitude.

Now I appreciate a good nap as much as the next person. But I just want to make sure that I take advantage of the amenities. It seems like we could have saved a lot of money by just taking time off work and having all this at our house.

Some of us did ride jet skis this morning. That was actually quite fun. Amanda went parasailing yesterday as part of her birthday present. I enjoyed riding the boat with her. Anyhow, I don't think we need to stay continually busy, but I do want to make sure we take advantage of what's here.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Enduring Right Now

I had a great time meeting with some of the guys from Shepherd's on Tuesday and actually started filling out my application last night. I even went so far as to request my transcript from Ohio State. Amanda is on board with all of this and I'm excited to get started.

Today I had an absolutely brutal meeting. I was up a little bit late last night filling out the application. I got up on time for my workout this morning. So I'm pretty tired today. On top of it I had to sit for about an hour of someone talking about how we can generate monitoring reports using a new monitoring package. I'm really glad that he is into this. But I just kept thinking about how even learning Koine Greek sounds pretty attractive by comparison. I also struggled to find ways to keep my eyes open through it.

I'm trying to decide if going to seminary will help or hinder my attitude about work. My plan is that it will give me hope. But I'm afraid that I will start counting on my new life and use that as an excuse to take my eyes off of what I'm supposed to do here. I need to keep focused about why I'm here. It's not just for me to look to the future.