Life Posts

Work that Matters

I invite you to join me in a short journey of recent memories.

Experience #1

Sitting together one evening, my dad and I “swapped stories” of emails we had received about certain things we’d each mentioned while preaching. While neither of the emails we mentioned were sent with any type of ill-will, we reflected on the challenge of our jobs when you give your opinion and perspective to thousands of people who have their own opinions and perspectives. Most people don’t realize it also means you find yourself explaining your arguments to others in email after the fact.

Experience #2

I had the opportunity to preach at a friend’s church last weekend. I talked about Jesus’ statement that He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:1-21). One lady came up to me afterward and told me that she recites Psalm 23 every morning (the one that talks about “The Lord is my shepherd…”) and how I had forever changed her time with God each day. Another woman talked with me afterward and told me that as she listened to an illustration I used (about a negative view of God), she mentioned to her daughter that she found that to be an absurd stereotype. Her daughter replied by telling her mom that the illustration perfectly captured her view of God. Her mom was stunned and extremely grateful to me for the chance to have that dialogue with her daughter.


If I only think about experience #1 I can easily idealize some other career path. I know I’m not alone in this. Think back to the last time you felt totally drained and discouraged doing something you feel passionate about. If I only think about experience #2 I can easily expect a dream job which I’ll never quite get to last. Again, I’m sure you’ve had to work through something like this in your own life. But when I, and you the reader, combine both of these types of experiences we find a balanced way of sustaining ourselves to do work that matters. It won’t be all roses, and the moments of tension (especially if they come at you in a rush) can feel overwhelming at times. But this is the entrance fee for doing something of value. It also keeps us from having our heads in the clouds and constantly chasing after some dream which cannot be sustained. How many people opt out of meaningful efforts because the challenge with it was too much or because the adrenaline rush didn’t last?

You can spend today on work that matters. Find what it really looks like and willing give yourself to it and to the challenges it brings.

Exploring deeper theology—especially ideas which are new to you—is like taking the roof off your bedroom. You begin to see the night sky and the stars in all their brilliance. But you also experience a new vulnerability from the rain when it storms. The question for each of us is whether we are willing to trade the one for the other.

Promoter of the Faith

I’ve always been a bit of a contrarian. While I like what this ultimately leads me to I’ll admit that it’s not always the most fun position to hold. Going against the flow in almost any area carries a burden with it. But it also allows for greater diversity and depth of perspective.

Recently I’ve been reading this book and it mentioned a part of the Catholic Church that I had never heard the full story of before.

For centuries, the Catholic Church made use of a “devil’s advocate” in canonization decisions (i.e., in deciding who would be named a saint). The devil’s advocate was known inside the church as the promotor fidei—the “promoter of the faith”—and his role was to build a case against sainthood. John Paul II eliminated the office in 1983, ending 400 years of tradition. Since then, tellingly, saints have been canonized at a rate about 20 times faster than in the early part of the twentieth century.

An effective promotor fidei is not a token argumentative smarty-pants; it’s someone who deeply respects the Catholic Church and is trying to defend the faith by surfacing contrary arguments in situations where skepticism is unlikely to surface naturally. (Who wants to argue against someone who’s lived a life so admirable that they merit consideration as a saint?)


Beauty in the Basic

Beauty in the Basic

I’ve been reflecting lately on the importance of celebrating the more normal (mundane) parts of life. So often in our spiritual life we look for the big moments of significance. And those can be incredible to experience. But we often overlook and unnecessarily negate the beauty in the basic things. I’ll give you an example (one that will open myself up to quite a bit of ridicule as well).

Lately I’ve been waking up with random songs in my head. When I say random, I mean songs that I haven’t listened to in years and don’t particularly even like. But I’ll find myself humming the melody or mouthing the lyrics I know and then I’ll catch myself and wonder what on earth is happening. Within the last week or so this has happened on three different occasions when it stood out to me.

Here were the songs:


The Dilemma of the Oxygen Mask

The Dilemma of the Oxygen Mask

If you’ve ever paid attention to the safety speech on an airplane (we all do, right?) you’ve no doubt heard them reference the oxygen masks. You know, they’ll fall from the ceiling, won’t necessarily inflate, etc. But the interesting thing to me has always been the very last part of the oxygen mask speech. That’s where they instruct you to put on your mask first before helping those around you. The logic is simple: you aren’t much help to others when you yourself are passed out on the floor.

This has become a sort of running joke with Michelle and me. She’s never been great with setting up personal boundaries for herself. She’s a type A person with an unbelievable drive for life and for the amount of things she thinks she can accomplish each day. As a result, this causes her to experience burnout moments of exhaustion. As her husband, there have been times when I need to lovingly coach (or when that doesn’t work, strategically convince) her that she needs to slow it down a bit to take care of herself.

If we go out of town together I usually have to help her the night before set a bedtime—literally a cutoff point—where she will shut down the preparations and go to sleep. As we all know, there’s always more to do. My selfishness allows me to navigate the oxygen mask easier than my wife. I’ll pack my bag first and then ask her what I can help with around the house. By that point she’s already done a lot of it and we usually get into what we affectionately know as the “oxygen mask conversation.” I’ll defend my actions by explaining that I’ve first put my mask on so that now I can help. At least one of us was listening on the plane. She doesn’t see it this way.


Thanks for the Feedback

Thanks for the Feedback - Douglas Stone, Sheila HeedI recently finished a great book called Thanks for the Feedback by Douglas Stone and Sheila Heen. As the title suggests, it’s a book about how to best give and receive feedback. This is such a crucial, yet underrated skill. I live in a world of feedback for my job everyday. I’m constantly receiving bits of feedback on decisions I’ve made or someone has made on my team. The truth is that this can be exhausting. But the solution isn’t to run away while we cover our ears. We need feedback to grow, and regardless of what we spend the majority of our days doing we can find feedback all around us.

Here are some great ideas from the book for all of us regardless of whether you are in any type of corporate environment: