Saturday, September 24, 2011

Something is Wrong

At times my legs feel funny and I struggle to decide which one should support me, as I stand shifting my weight from side to side. Something is wrong.

At other times I question the temperature. “Is it hot in here?” I may say, as sweat crowds my brow, weeps down my sideburns and spills onto my shirt. Something is wrong.

Whether slow or fast in its advance, eventually I feel its weight; it pulls me down and drains my strength and wisdom all too quickly. Something is wrong

Time is slow now. I discover I have downshifted from a participant to observer. I can’t report my findings very well – Energy is spent, even moving is difficult. Something is wrong

In many ways I’m not with you. I am standing beside you – Two steps back. The seat of my chair – Below you on the floor. You are a movie I’m watching, silently from my seat. Your caring words, lines in the script – Heard by me without reaction. Something is wrong.

You narrow your eyes at me, focused now on my struggle. Some might ask if I’ve been drinking, but you know me. You know that something is wrong.

You know me, so you know something. You know what is wrong.
You save me because you know me and know that something is wrong.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Job and The Job

Not too long ago, because of the struggling economy, the company I work for had to make some adjustments. In order keep the ship afloat a variety of changes were made. Reductions in pay, work hours and vacation time were instituted to lessen the payroll load. Proposal efforts, vitally important to gain new work and grow the company back to health were also targeted in these sweeping changes. We were told that hours we spent on these efforts would be held in a special reserve account to hopefully be compensated for later.
        The company was also taking advantage of the State of California Work Share program at the same time however. Hours unpaid by the company were being compensated (at a reduced rate of course) by the State Employment Development Department (EDD). To provide incentives for employees to spend time pursuing proposal work while still enabling them to participate in the state EDD program, it was suggested by management that we turn in two (2) timecards. One that the company would use to generate our weekly paycheck and one to “hold in reserve”, for possible payment in the future, should things turn around.
        I immediately felt my integrity challenged. How could I turn in a form to the state claiming one amount of compensation, when a second timecard existed with at least the potential for more, one they would never know about? I wanted to continue to assist in writing and pursuing work for the company, but knew I could not submit two timecards. I questioned the legality of the policy and was told that the only way the state would ever know about the practice would be if I blew the whistle.
        I’ve been told that I was the only one in the company who decided to only submit one timecard, one true and accurate timecard. Several weeks maybe a month or two went by when it came to light that many of the “secondary or reserve time” timecards submitted displayed some questionable hourly entries. Proposal times were apparently being exaggerated, perhaps believing time itself would hide the real efforts expended in this “shady” practice. In the end the whole “second timecard” idea was scrapped and in my refusal to participate I felt vindicated.
        As the struggle in the economy continues, so too do Satan’s attempts to derail the progress and efforts of believers. He has but one mission, one focus – our ruin. Our focus and time is too often split between competing influences. When I read the words in red, the words of Christ, I read a focused message spoken to a broken and lost world in need of grace and love. When we look at each other what do we see? Are we too – at least acting like – the lost world around us? Should we see things differently than we do?
        Every year I read through the Bible. Reading The Daily Bible compiled in chronological order into 365 daily readings by F. LaGard Smith has been a daily ritual to my morning quiet times for some time now. The presentation of the complete Bible as one story is attractive to the writer inside of me and having it presented in small bites allows me to consistently remain in the word of God.
        The chronological format of the presentation forced Smith to make some hard choices however. The book of Job is a good example. Job is fittingly presented in Smith’s compilation just after the great deportations, at a time of Israel's greatest suffering. Job is understood to be an early patriarch, not a child of Israel. He was just a lone human being who finds himself in terrible suffering for no apparent reason.  Reading the Book of Job is difficult even when our burdens are light. There is great distress and anguish throughout the narrative. How can anyone remain unmoved by an author cursing the day of his own birth for instance?
        Scholars argue that the book is a vindication of the justice and goodness of God. Although these divine characteristics are seen in the story, its purpose may more directly speak to integrity. Job is blameless and upright at the beginning and, although discouraged, nothing is able to move him. He proclaimed, "Though He slay me, yet will I trust Him." (13:15). Satan was allowed to test Job and was unsuccessful.
        As the reader, we know this but isn’t it interesting that Job didn't. So the issue of the integrity of Job demonstrates the greater truth of the integrity of God Himself. As trials came (and still come) to God's children through the ages, Satan's claims would be (and will be) broken, case by case, as they prayed (and we pray) for the power to overcome through the merits of the slain lamb. Let’s live lives of integrity for Him.

Aspiring Writer's Forum - Welcome to Y3

Last Wednesday initiated the third year of the Aspiring Writer’s Forum at Chino Valley Community Church. Our first meeting was well attended, but a number of familiar faces were missing. Some I understand are struggling with the time demands of life to find room in their schedules for the AWF. Prioritizing and finding a God honoring balance can be difficult (see previous posting on this issue). There were a few members that I know are continuing and just could not attend the first night (you were missed Carl and Keala).

As this new year of AWF begins, I just wanted to unofficially (as I am not one of the group leaders) welcome everyone, new and continuing (not old), to our little group. I hope that the insightful perspectives that we always seem to find in each others writing continues this year, as we stretch ourselves to honor God through the written word.

Let me tell you a secret:
When I first joined – one year ago – I hated the idea of journaling at the beginning of each class. First of all, when I write it is usually in my favorite office chair at home on the computer (in the shelter of my cave) not sitting around a table writing by hand (as an engineer I write in block letters, not cursive, so my penmanship is very slow). Secondly, I do NOT journal. I had never enjoyed or found any use for it. I guess I always considered that once I had spent the time, in my head, mulling over an issue, there was little use getting it all down on paper. It was time to move on to the next issue or urgent task. Also, my writing project of over 14 months (at that time) was a crime novel. How could journaling about last week’s sermon help me with that?

Boy was I wrong! Our journaling time each week accomplishes a number of great things:

  • When it’s focused back on last weeks sermon (which it isn’t always), it allows us to reengage a fresh lesson from God’s Word.
  • As we write and then (maybe most importantly) share, we learn about how God himself is speaking to and through our fellow AWF members. This gives us a bigger picture of how God is moving in and through the body of believers here at CVCC and perhaps the world as well.
  • Finally, it's important as writers to flex and stretch our writing muscles, even out of our comfort zone, right there on the spot.

So, if you are feeling like I did when I started, take heart and watch what God will show you through this class. If not, then you are way ahead of me! In any case, welcome to the AWF.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Balancing Life -- While Still in Process

When certain words or thoughts find repetition in my daily walk, when dissimilar facets of my life seem to collide in a single strangely harmonious way regarding a particular topic or challenge, I have come to realize that God is trying to gain my attention, perhaps “Oh My” - He is even trying to teach me something. What a concept right? Currently, the central theme that I am hearing from a variety of contacts within my life is BALANCE. Finding or achieving the balance that can be so critically important to finding peace in life.
        Rachelle Gardener is a literary Agent in Colorado, whose blog posts come each day to me in the form of an e-mail. In a recent post entitled “How to find Balance”, she provides the following useful equation:
Balance = strength + focus

She then breaks this down for us:
Strength – The fitness experts are always telling us we need to strengthen our core. When you’re trying to balance, you need to use the core muscles – literally, tighten them and keep them strong. They can’t be loose and flabby or you won’t have the strength to balance yourself.
Focus – When you’re trying to gain balance, you can’t be looking all over the place. You need to find something upon which to focus your eyes, while inwardly you focus on placing your body where you want it. If your eyes start darting around, or if you quickly lift your head in search of a mirror to see how you are doing, you’ll fall over. You’ve got to maintain that focus.

            Rachelle’s post closes with the all-important question: How do we apply this to life? Easy question – but difficult to answer for both the physical and spiritual worlds. Where do we find strength and what should we focus upon?

        In today’s sermon, given by Jason Andrews, Pastor of Families at CVCC, Jason reminded each of us in attendence of some basic truth’s that often remain hidden away from our much needed attention. Those truth’s are listed in priority as:
  1.         My role as a Believer is to make Christ paramount in my life.
  2.         MY role as a Husband is to follow the example Christ modeled.
  3.         My role as a Parent/Mentor is to raise up the next generation of        believers to follow Christ.

        These truths brought back to my mind the Question of Balance we looked at earlier. Where do we find our strength and on what should we focus as we attempt to fullfill these roles? All three of the roles expressed above (believer, husband and parent/mentor) as stated, require me to focus on but one thing, Christ Jesus, the King of Kings. So, it all falls apart because we lack the strength then? That must be why it seems so hard? But wait, Gods Word has somethings to say about strength too!

Trust ye in the Lord forever: for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength.
-Isaiah 26:4

The Lord is my strength and song, and is become my salvation.
-Psalm 118:14

It is God that girdeth me with strength, and maketh my way perfect.
–Psalm 18:32

For thou hast girded me with strength unto the battle: thou hast subdued under me those that rose up against me – Psalm 18:39

God is my strength and power: And he maketh my way perfect.
–2 Samuel 22:23

I can do all things through Christ, who strengthens me
-Philippians 4:13

        So…in conclusion if we FOCUS on Him, He will provide the STRENGTH we need to overcome the challenges we face and the glory will belong to Him. Could it be that we are getting in our own way in this process? And is that perhaps because we desire the glory for ourselves? Something to consider next time you’re losing traction under that big rock you’ve been pushing up the hill.