Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."

Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Gratitude and Ceviche

Sometimes I think that when such and such thing I want to happen does, then I'll be really happy.

But the truth is as Henry Ford once said - that a person is as happy as he chooses to be.

There's certainly tons of hard stuff in my life right now, but there's also so much good.  Today the department directors and I had lunch together.  It was wonderful all sitting around, relaxing for a bit and talking.  I'd given the medical records gal money to buy the stuff and she made Ceviche.  She makes the best Ceviche of anyone/anyplace that I know.  Sitting there together, it just felt good.  I'm grateful for these people with whom I work.

Saturday, August 8, 2020

A fuller version of Lamenting

New CMS Lent campaign urges churches to focus on lament - Inspire ...
Photo from Inspire Magazine


I want to grow into a fuller version of lamenting.

In his book Soong-Chang Rah refers to some research done by Glenn Pemberton.  Rah notes that while lament constitutes 40% of the Psalms, less than 20% of any of the church hymnals contain songs of lament, and even less of the contemporary worship songs popular in churches across America today. Rah goes on to explain how most of the White American churches are "concerned with questions of proper management and joyous celebration".   Rah quotes Walter Breggemann and flat out says "The well-off do not expect their faith to begin in a cry, but rather with a song. They do not expect or need intrusion, but they rejoice in stability [and the] durability of a world and social order that have been beneficial to them".

Rah goes on to explain that a theology that only consists of celebration and doesn't include suffering is not complete.  He speaks of how lament and praise must go hand in hand.

Since I was a young teen I've always felt called to work to help people.  My jobs have primarily had me work with people who are developmentally disabled or mentally ill.  I'm consistently drawn to people on the fringes.  As far back as I can remember I've cried whenever I see people in pain, see a movie where people are ill treated, or read about people being treated bad. I actually have to turn away when there's violence in movies and someone's getting hurt - I can't watch it.  I can't handle boxing or any kind of contact sport  where someone's getting hurt right in front of me. I can't drive by an ambulance without beginning to pray for the people who are going to be served by it.  Sometimes I've been a bit embarrassed about the crying.  At one point I even wondered if I had some kind of repressed memories that caused me to almost take on the emotions of those being hurt.  I sometimes feel like I am kind of a downer in a world of have-it-togethers and maybe I'm missing out on something because of it. Recently I've come to realize that this has absolutely nothing to do with me doing anything - it's just the way I'm wired. 

Because of how I'm wired, in some ways lamenting is a bit natural for me.  

However, I seek to embrace a fuller version of lamenting.  I appreciate Hill's word of explanation that when we lament we "posture ourselves before God to wail, cry and mourn. To lament is to acknowledge the pain that we aren't home and this world is too often marked by evil and injustice. To lament is to ask God the haunting questions 'Where are  you? What are you doing? How long must we wait?' " "a lament is truly asking, seeking, and knocking to understand the heart of God. A lament involves the energy to search, not shut down the quest for truth. It is the passion to ask, rather than rant and rave with already reached conclusions. A lament uses the language of pain, anger, and confusion and moves toward God."

As I ponder this I'm struck with the thought that lamenting should lead me to a deep level realization of my insufficiency and cause me to cling to God.  Then God can provide the answers about what to do.  The older I get the more I realize that some things just can't be fixed. This doesn't mean that I give up.  It means that I will continue to seek to do what God wants me to - and sometimes He supernaturally does stuff - but sometimes He doesn't and things still remain broken (it's the old Humpty Dumpty thing).  I choose to live my life grateful for when God does bless and change things and mindful of the fact that He's God and I'm not when He doesn't.

I want to learn how to Lament

I want to learn about lamenting and learn how to lament.  I want to start lamenting.

Max Richter - A Lamenting Song - YouTube
Photo taken from Max Richter A Lamenting Song

As I was reading today my attention was totally snagged by a story that Hill related; the guy in the story could have been me, what he said echoed the exact words of my heart.  

Hill shared an account of a time when he was at a 2-day retreat with leaders around the country who were involved with the work of justice.  He explained about a time at that retreat when some experiences were shared by some leaders of color. These leaders had gone to work in all-white organizations specifically  to provide direction for greater levels of diversity and equity.  The leaders related how they had found that their experiences in their places of employment were as racially stressful as what they'd experienced in the outside world, or even more so. After they'd shared, one of the white pastors asked some questions.  He explained that he was the senior leader in his organization and he didn't want to do that same thing, he didn't want people of color in his organization to have these bad experiences.  He asked what he could do.

That's my question - what can I do?!

This is the very question that's been bouncing around in my mind and spirit since I began this recent journey.  But it seems like God keeps putting a Wait into my spirit.  To be honest it's made me feel a bit guilty and uncomfortable.  I mean, if I know something is wrong then I need to set about fixing it - right?  I've wondered if maybe I've heard Him wrong and have just been lazy and self serving; but I keep getting that same pause in my Spirit.  I keep getting this feeling of it's OK to take my time and wait.  I figure maybe He needs to do some work in me before I'll be ready or able to do those things which need to be done.

As I was reading today I was totally caught up in this story; I was right there with the guy asking what can I do.  I was just as confused by the response as Hill relates that the guy in the story was.  The leaders of color all looked at each other when he asked the question and finally one acted as the spokesperson and told the guy.  Hills says that the leader of color said "What we would ask for you to do is lament".

This guy, whoever he was, is a man who thinks like me.  Their response confused him and he apologized for possibly being slow (I could so see myself saying that!) but pointed out that this seemed an insufficient response, that he didn't see how feeling bad about something would change his organization.  Then Hill pointed out how most of the American White Church has an insufficient theology and understanding of lament.  It was pretty cool for me because as Hill spoke about who he learned the most about lament from he noted Soong-Chan Rah.  Guess what?  When I bought Hill's book I also felt compelled to purchase a book by an author I'd never heard of named Soong-Chan Rah who wrote a book entitled Prophetic Lament.  A book with such a title is not one I'd normally buy but I just felt drawn to it.  I have this total thing for Asian culture (I confess to spending my TV watching time immersed in Korean and Chinese dramas) so I figured that must have been the reason for the strong pull of that book. But now I realize it's because I'm meant to learn about lamenting.

I want to develop my own theology around lamenting.  I want to understand what it means to lament and begin to practice lamenting in meaningful ways. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

Grateful at work

job-success-life - Career Potential Career Coach Philadelphia
Photo from Job Success
One of the things that really impressed me when I read the book Extreme Ownership was the phrase "There's no such thing as bad teams, only bad leaders" and the corresponding  example the  author provided. It struck me because all too often in my mind I'll complain about one of the leaders on  my team.  This phrase was a wake up call for me; they're not the problem, my leadership failure is the problem.  

One of my biggest personal weaknesses is that I'm too nice, too easy going.  It was the same struggle for me as a parent.  For the past 18 months I've not been happy with the program director at work.  I'd tried several ways to get him to step it up.  These were all rather non confrontational, "polite", attempts to get him to be better at his job.  But they hadn't worked.  The most recent thing was that at the beginning of the year I'd put together a form that pretty much holds him accountable for delivering certain things on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.  I hate doing this kind of thing because it's rather micro managing.  But I figured that at least I'd be clear that he would know what he was supposed to be doing (just in case there was any confusion).  I was stunned that he has consistently not gotten those things done.

I let it slide for way too long.  I realized that I just needed to give him a written counseling and performance improvement plan.  He was not seeming to understand his failing the way I've been doing it.  I realized that it doesn't matter if I'm overwhelmed, I'm still called to lead.  I started praying for God to grow passion in me and to grant me the fortitude that I need.  I prayed about how to have the difficult conversation with the program director.

I sat down with him and went through the counseling and improvement plan.  He was his usual charming self but didn't own up to anything.  He made comments such as how he may not be there yet but he's consistently getting better.  I let him know that he's not meeting the job requirements.  Then I just frankly told him that the whole problem can be summed up in the fact that he lacks ownership and passion.  He acts like it's my job and he's just doing a few parts of it; but that it's his program and until he steps up and takes over he'll never be able to get his stuff done.   It was uncomfortable but I was respectful and the next day it looked like he was going to change his ways.  Then he went home in the middle of that next day sick and was out for 4 days.  Then when he came back there was catch up to be done.  But I didn't let things go; I emailed him the revised due dates for the items in his improvement plan since they were all 4 days later than originally planned. 

I've been a bit anxious in the back of my mind about the meeting with him.  If he didn't have the stuff completed he'd end up with write up number two.  My experience is that when you get to this point with a manager, typically it goes downhill from there and it most often ends up with the 3-write-ups-you're-out situation.  I just continued to treat him good and to pray.

Today was the meeting.  He came in with his stuff all done to show me.  I was elated.  But what really blessed my socks off was that he talked to me.  He told me that when he was off he'd thought about what I'd said.  He realized that I was right.  He got into this business because he was passionate about helping people and he'd had great programs he'd been in charge of in the past and had a real sense of pride in his work.  He'd had bad experiences and lost his pride and passion along the way and became burned out by the time he came here 2 years ago.  He realized that he had to look at himself and change.  For the first time since I've known this man I really respected him.

Anyone can get burned out - life is hard!  But it takes character to recognize personal failure and to commit to change.  He showed me that today.

I'm grateful.

Blog Widget by LinkWithin