Friday, 25 March 2016

An Email Rant and A Good Friday Reminder

"One look at an email can rob you of 15 minutes of focus. One call on your cell phone, one tweet, one instant message can destroy your schedule, forcing you to move meetings, or blow off really important things, like love and friendship." (Jacqueline Leo)

Well here we are on another Good Friday, a Statutory Holiday in many places. Translation: a short workweek. Translation: a long weekend. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Ahh, who doesn’t love a loonnngggg weekend?! Truth is, however, it comes with a price, which is the essence of my rant today.

<< Start Rant >>

Despite all the hype, and being not completely mindless of the significance of the Good Friday “day off,” it seems that sometimes long weekends aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. Perhaps in some types of work, they’re still great; I used to like them more too once upon a time. I’m sure that I can speak for many of us, especially those of us in some form of leadership capacity, that the workload doesn’t proportionately decrease just because the workweek suddenly becomes shorter.

The fact is, when I’m barely keeping my head above water on a normal five-day workweek, and suddenly along comes that wonderful extra day off on my weekend afforded to me by the government-imposed statutory holiday, having one less day to get my work done is almost as bad as committing suicide by drowning! If I can barely get things done in five days, how on earth am I supposed to get the same amount of work done in four? I was never good at math, but I do know that those formulas don’t add up; five minus one does not equal five!

By way of example, I worked four days this week, two of which already contained several extra hours in which I worked well into the evening, one night of which resulted in getting only 2.5 hours of actual sleep. Then yesterday, on the eve of “Good Friday” (a long weekend) I arrive home later than normal once again, only to look at my work phone and notice that I still have 89 unread email messages. I should also add that there are probably almost half that many again that I’ve already read, but haven’t yet fully dealt with. In other words, they too are still in my inbox. “Good” Friday? I know, I know, Good Friday has nothing to do with my workplace woes, but there is at least a little irony there, wouldn’t you say?

Translation: Between the read and unread emails, there are approximately 130 emails that still need my attention … this week (and never mind all those +/- 30 more unread emails in my personal email accounts) ... and they said that computers would make our lives easier! Ha! In my humble opinion, in some ways the reverse seems closer to the truth; life somehow seemed easier before the advent of the computer age.

So here we are, another statutory holiday, and I’ll take the day off with pay as the government says that I may. And while I’m twiddling my thumbs at home, enjoying my time off from the workplace, I’ll ignore the fact that those 89 unread emails will probably grow to the 110-120 mark by the time I return to the office Monday morning, which in turn obviously means that not everyone is taking the long weekend off. But, hey, computers have made my life easier. So what have I got to complain about? (Yes, I’m being a little facetious).

Having said all that, I do not want to end all this on a negative note or sound ungrateful. In a day and age when there is so much high unemployment, I am indeed very thankful for my job, plethora of emails and all.

<< End Rant >>

A former Catholic priest and friend of mine reminded me recently of how he prioritized his life into five categories. He said that only then did he seem to get control of some of the angst of workplace pressures. From most important to least important, those categories are: (1) God, (2) Spouse, (3) Personal Health, (4) Rest of Family, (5) Job/Career (I’ve made reference to this before in Goose Theology and the Sermon on the Mount). Based upon my rant, I’ve clearly managed to get that order mixed up yet again. *sigh*

So in an effort to refocus and make things right again, I say hello to Good Friday. I will deliberately be unorthodox today, from a business perspective, and try and ignore all those business emails for at least today. This is, after all, the start of the most important weekend in the church calendar, and that’s worth stopping to reflect upon. Some might ask, so what’s the big deal with Good Friday anyway? Perhaps I can answer that best by sharing what I'm meditating upon today:

While at first the execution of Jesus seemed tragic to the disciples, the truth is that there was something very “good” that came from it. Peter reminded his hearers that the crucifixion of Jesus came about “by God’s set purpose and foreknowledge” (Acts 2:23). Why would God do that? Peter soon answers that question: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38). “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Paul would later say that by means of the cross God was reconciling “to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross” (Colossians 1:20).

Fact is, it is God’s desire that mankind be saved, which is “good.” God knew that we could not be saved on our own efforts, so He provided the way, which is also “good.” The way God chose to do this was the cross of Christ, which is what Good Friday is all about. When combined with the empty tomb and Resurrection three days later on Easter Sunday morning, well that is the heart of the Good News. He is risen! He is risen! He is risen indeed! Therein is our hope.

So my goal this Good Friday is to slow the work pace down to a crawl and meditate a little more upon goodness and love of God toward me, a sinner saved only by His grace. Certainly that’s a little more important than clearing up my inbox of a bunch of emails. Peace to you and yours this Easter season. God bless.

Photo #1 Credit: Flickr Creative Commons
Photo #2 Credit: Flickr Creative Commons
Photo #3 Credit: Flickr Creative Commons

Saturday, 19 March 2016

Salt, Light, and the Itch for Publicity

Recently a friend found an old tattered book in a used bookstore whose title intrigued him. It was called, The Christ of the Mount: A Working Philosophy of Life by E. Stanley Jones, copyright 1931, The Abingdon Press. Amazon says it’s currently unavailable, but like my friend, you may still find a used copy somewhere.

Eli Stanley Jones was an American Methodist missionary who, according to Wikipedia was the Billy Graham to India. He died in India in January of 1973.

After my friend was done with this book, he loaned it to me to enjoy as well. There were several sections that caught my attention, including this discussion on salt and light based upon Matthew 5: 13-16. Here’s his take on that portion of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount:
The action of salt is silent, pervasive, hidden, unseen; the action of light is open and manifest – the most openly manifest thing imaginable. The influence of Christian character is to be twofold, a silent, hidden and pervasive thing reaching into the very fiber of men’s thought and outlook; and it is to be open, lighting the outer life of men and their affairs. But it is to be inward and pervasive before it is to be outward – we are to be salt before we can be light. No man can shine in obviousness unless he is willing to permeate in obscurity. Many of us would like to be light, but we are unwilling to work like salt, unseen, unnoticed, unapplauded. … We have no real passion to change things where change really matters, namely, within. The Christianity of the present day is hurt by a desire to be light coupled with an unwillingness to be salt. It is suffering from an outwardism that is more interested in statistics than in states of heart and mind.
So what is your take on that? Are we guilty of being unwilling to work like salt? Are we only interested in the applause of light? While I try not to dwell upon institutional church faux-pas like I once did, I confess that all I could think about is the showmanship of many modern church services. I know that’s an unfair caricature; not all churches are like that. Still I’ve long since argued that Hollywood has invaded the church service, such as in this post from January 2008.

Maybe that’s why Paul cautioned Timothy to not be too quick of laying on the hands (1 Timothy 5:22); maybe he too thought it important to make sure that there was salt before focusing on the light. It all reminds me of the story of the pastor who had served in a church for many years before he himself actually came to know the Lord and be saved. How ironic to think that he may have been converted by his own preaching. Was he “light” before first being “salt?” Hmm, in my way of thinking, and perhaps Jones’ as well, it begs the question.

Is the church today “suffering from an outwardism that is more interested in statistics than in states of heart and mind?” Perhaps the cartoon is truer than we care to admit; “The ministers’ gathering was going well until the question came up, ‘How’s your church doing?’” Perhaps we are more focused on being light than first being salt. Perhaps we’ve put the proverbial cart before the horse. Perhaps too many of us still suffer from Pinocchio-itis. Perhaps the real issue here is the demon Pride. Something to think about. Peace.

Cartoon Source: Unknown