Faith, Work


Yesterday, as I was wrapping up my work week, I told one of my colleagues I felt like I was crashing through the whole week. The image in my mind was one of stomping through a thick forest, a little bit lost, but sure I would find my way out. In fact, I have been in that situation several times. I live across from a state park, and in some of my walks, I take a short cut — I go off the path because I know I’ll get back home sooner. It never works, of course, because I become quickly disoriented and the way out “over there” is never actually there but “somewhere else.”

I was crashing through my week with God too. I could not slow down enough to hear the soft whisper. Monday was a holiday, Tuesday I was in an all-day meeting, Wednesday I was out having some very minor surgery, Thursday was my dreaded steering committee for a major project I have been leading, and Friday was back to back meetings. This steering committee meeting — the one that governs the technology integration between my company and one we acquired over the summer — has a certain edge in which the members tend to take shots at what we are doing and to criticize even the smallest mistakes. And, of course, I take it personally. And I take everything they say seriously, even if it is a lie (because there is always a hidden agenda).

One of my team members, my operations lead, pulled me aside before the meeting and told me “I had it” and he told me to stay “on point.” As would happen, he reminded me, we would go off on a tangent at some point, and it was my job to bring us back to the decisions that needed to be made. (Did I mention I love team members who give honest, direct and useful feedback?)

And so at minute 35 out of our allotted 90 minutes, we went off track. Someone criticized an approach we were taking to solving a particularly difficult situation with some cost overruns. And the frenzy began. After a minute or so, four things happened. My operations lead gave me a look that I interpreted as “You need to bring us back,” then I remembered his words, “stay on point,” then I faced the real physical feeling in my stomach which I call anxiety, and at last, I prayed, “Lord. I need your help.”

Then the miraculous happened. Words came to my mind, “Thank you for your feedback. It’s important to us. But we need a decision on our staffing issue. And while this other issue is important, it’s not the focus of this meeting.” Simultaneously I took a deep breath, and I let that pit in my stomach go. A great sense of calm came to me, and people agreed to get back on track, and we took action to get back to the other topic in our next meeting.

So here’s the thing. I have been in this type of situation before and muddled through the meeting. This time around, with my desire to be more open to the Holy Spirit this year, I later asked God, “Was that you? Did you guide me?” In my intuition, in my growing openness, He did. I believe the Holy Spirit was right there. And I was listening and allowing Him to give me the words to say and the demeanor to manage this challenging situation.

That afternoon, I had three hallway conversations with people telling me that was a great meeting, and two emails saying the same. A first on both counts and this project is entering the end of its first year.

Listening to the trusted people around me, and listening to the prompting of the Holy Spirit. What a gift.


The Holy Spirit

Of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit is the least talked about among my churchgoing friends. The Holy Spirit is such a profound teaching and is so far outside our experience. It’s a mystery. While Jesus is the perfect Son and by his acts, we are adopted by God as His children; the Holy Spirit resides in our hearts. The Holy Spirit helps create a clearer vision of God’s love for us and helps to develop a closer relationship with both Father and Son. That is easier written than realized.

On some days on my way to work, I get off the train a stop early, and I walk the last mile or so to the office. A few weeks ago, it was 30 degrees and a deep crystal blue sky. As I started walking, I fell into an easy cadence, and in my mind, I began to say, “Lord Jesus, have mercy on me.” In a short time, even those words left me until I was simply walking and observing the world around me in silence.

Gradually, everything I saw and heard and felt and smelled had an intense focus, and throughout the whole walk, I had an overwhelming thought inside that said, “This is my world…” There were other people walking and I noticed their faces — old and young and happy and sad and empty — there were children walking hand-in-hand with parents, there were dogs playing in a park, there was the fresh smell of coffee and pastries, there were school buses, and taxi cabs, and birds. A whole world filled with God’s creation. “This is my world, and I love it so… do you see?” was the overwhelming sense I had.

I wonder how I am changed with the very reality that something of God abides in me? I think it is this: through the Holy Spirit’s indwelling, I become more aware of what God’s world is. I experience it with the senses he has given me—sight, sound, smell, feel and even taste— which unleashes in me a heart that loves more and more as His does, and I come to understand that even the smallest details are known to Him.

“You know Him, because he abides with you.” John 14:17

Making the time to acknowledge Him and by letting His presence be who you are, we open ourselves to loving as He loves. Why is it that we don’t talk only about the Holy Spirit? And why is it we seem to be afraid of people who have a connection and experience with the Holy Spirit as if God were talking to directly to them? I think it’s because, in this day and age, we need and crave certainty. We need clarification on the rules of conduct for our lives and affirmation of our political and social views. The Holy Spirit is not leading me in that way. In fact, I think He is asking me to give up all I know, and to rest in His presence.

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all that I have said to you.” John 14:26

This year, I will be spending more time listening to the Holy Spirit, and allowing Him to cultivate in me the mind and heart He is opening inside of me. It feels natural, but it is way outside my comfort zone.


Gun Control!

No too long ago, I was “reading” a debate on gun control on Facebook.  You have heard all the arguments pro and con, I am sure.  For the gun owner advocates, a common one goes like this:

  • Suppose you’re in your home, and someone breaks in, and is intent on doing harm to your family.  He wants to do horrible things that are unspeakable.  And if you own a gun, you would protect your family right there and then by shooting the intruder dead. 

All of this assumes that you have access to your gun, you’re not completely surprised by the sudden intrusion, that you fire the first shot, and no family member stands between you and the villain. And a host of other things.

What strikes me about this is that many of my Christian Evangelical friends take this even further and claim that it is practically a divine right under the US Constitution to own a weapon.  And this is where I am really grieved.  Just who is it who is the socio-economic-political-religious leader in our lives, and under what governing document do I submit?

But this is not an exegesis on gun control in the scriptures.  This is a comment on something else.

What really, really strikes me about this argument is the powerful use of the imagination.  When I personally envision this scenario, I get very, very scared.  If I let my imagination go, I can get into a frenzy of horrible what-ifs.

But what if we used our imagination differently?

Jesus Christ, the Word, through whom the entire universe was created. The same one, who through His Word, was crucified and raised from the dead, bearing the punishment of my sin.  The same Word who convicted me of my need for a savior, and promised that when I repented and believed, I would have the Holy Spirit living inside of me.  The Word who rebuilt my life, welcomed me into God’s family, prepared an eternal place for me in Heaven, gave me new hope, brought me unfathomable love, showed me greater wisdom, cultivated my relationships, set my priorities straight, kindled in me gratitude, peace, compassion, patience, forbearance, gentleness and joy.  All that – and so much more – by His Grace.

The Word created the Universe, and the Word saved us.  Imagine the Word working through us by the conviction of the Holy Spirit to preach God’s Word to the ends of the earth – which includes our homes.

  • Suppose you’re in your home, and someone breaks in, and is intent on doing harm to your family.  He wants to do horrible things that are unspeakable.  But through the power of the Word, the one who convicts, you share the Gospel.  You imagine the pain of the intruder, you show compassion and love and you offer the salvation of Jesus.  You plead Grace.  Forgiveness.  And he repents.

Imagine what this would do for the church.  Imagine the people who could be reached by this story of God’s saving power.  Imagine how God really does use His church to speak powerfully to anyone needing to be saved.  Imagine that this intruder is loved by God far more than you ever could. And imagine – in fact know – that God’s Son died for everyone.

Imagination can be a powerful motivator for decisions we make.  We imagine crazy outcomes to life situations – gun control, marriages, work, elections, investments, health – and this drives much of what we think and how we act.  We let our imagination be the justification for our life style.  We let our hypothetical imagination be the way we define our identity.  But in Christ, we are emboldened to live a life of Grace under his Lordship.

What if we commit to the Word as the outcome of scenarios in our imagination? What if, when our imagination runs wild, we commit instead to an outcome of gratitude, peace, compassion, patience, forbearance, gentleness and joy?


Go Pats!

Last Sunday was the first time I had seen the Patriots – or any football – all season. And I have been a big Patriots fan for a long time.  A friend had the game on.  The last 65 seconds in fact.  I couldn’t resist the beautiful 50” flat panel TV, and the amazing surround sound.  My heart rate went up just a few beats, and I was totally immersed in the drama of the come-from-behind victory. I was so excited.  It was a great ending, but…

But, I have given up football for the season.  But why?  It’s not like I am a betting fiend (I don’t bet), or that I spend hours and hours away from my family at games (I watch on Sundays at home) or that I think the game is a waste of time (well, maybe a little). So why?

It goes back to a sermon I heard a few months ago from David Platt. I’ll paraphrase here. So copyright and all rights to his thinking, inspired by the Holy Spirit.

Suppose you have an alien friend.  Someone who comes to the US, is not a Christian, and has no idea of the culture.

The first week you take your friend to church.  You get there just on time, the band is good, you sing a few of the  songs, not with a lot of enthusiasm, but enough words come out to make it seem like you enjoy it. Then there is a teaching segment, you write a few notes.  More music.  As you leave, you exchange a few pleasantries with a few people on the way out the door.   You even mention that you won’t make it to church next week, you know?  Tickets to “the game.” The Pats.

Thursday night, you get the portable grill out.  Friday is a trip the grocery store for special foods to grill.  Saturday you talk all night about Sunday.  Sunday you get up early, you put on your team colors.  You drive for an hour.  You get to the game 2 hours early.  You set up your parking “spot” with meticulous care.  You cook.  You throw a ball to complete strangers.  You share food with complete strangers.  You talk with complete strangers.

When the game starts, everyone is on time.  Everyone sings the opening song with great vigor.  When the players come out, loud cheers.  You know them all by name.  Almost every moment results in a response.  A cheer,  a sigh.  The crowd is euphoric when players get the ball to one end of the field or the other.  And it is a nail-biter game.  The last 30 minutes everyone is standing. And when it is over (a win), high fives and hugs to everyone you can reach.  And you lament how you don’t have tickets next week’s game.

Now ask yourself, at which event would your friend think was worship?   At which event was God (gods) seen?  How would you explain that the first week was worship of the Almighty, the All-Powerful, the Amazing Creator of the Universe, the One who sacrificed His son so that you could spend eternity with Him?  How would you explain that the second Sunday was a fleeting, human endeavor of entertainment and competition that glorified people and money?

Shouldn’t worship be something so much better than a game?  Shouldn’t excitement for church boil over more than for a game?  Shouldn’t a church invite to a colleague be the highlight of the work week?  After all,  grace is something all together different and all together better than anything on this planet.  Better than a Super Bowl victory.  Better than winning a $45 million dollar lottery.

Jesus says it well, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

And so the thought occurred to me, what if I asked God to use time away from football too create in me a greater sense of worship?  What if I asked God to use that time to help me grow?  To study his Word?  To pray?  What if I just asked God to use that time however He sees fit to cultivate in me a heart of worship?

So I did.  I asked God to help me put my focus on Him.  I gave away football time for time with Him. I asked Him to use my football time to cultivate my heart to see more fully that Grace is better than the whole earth.

It’s working. My Sunday afternoons are different.  I look forward to them in a new way.  I am developing a deepening sense that time spent with Him for His purpose is my purpose.

I am a fan.  A big fan of my savior.  And I am becoming a bigger fan week by week.

Go Jesus!