Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Life is lived today

You know how you can be having a dream, and it seems like the dream is lasting for hours or days, and when you wake up you realize you've only been asleep for a few minutes? That's sort of how I feel right now about the past 46 years. Just like a dream, I remember some things very clearly. But most everything else is foggy or forgotten. And all those years seem to have gone by in minutes.

But they didn't. Those years went by in days, one day at a time, just like today will. God willing, tomorrow I'll look back on today and it will melt into the dream state which is the part of my life that is behind me. The only day that I'm consciously living is today...not all the yesterdays and not all the potential tomorrows. Just today.

And that's the way it's supposed to be.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

The King is dead (long live the king)

Li'l Wally, the Polka King, has passed away.

Wally and his family lived across the street from us when I was very young. My Dad told me that on Saturday nights they would close down our block and the band would play and everyone would dance in the street. I wish I remembered that.

What I do remember is that I had a crush on his son Jimmy. Sweet thoughts of a simpler time.

Rest in peace, Li'l Wally. And thank you for the music.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Powered by the Son - Part VI

Read Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, Part V

I'm not a biblical scholar, a preacher or even a particularly good Sunday School teacher. But I know effective leadership when I see it, and the Bible is full of it.

Who were the big-time leaders in the Bible? From the Old Testament I tend to think of Moses first. He had to lead an entire society through the biggest changes in their history! And for the Hebrews, it was not just a physical change (their location), but also an emotional change (from slavery to freedom) and a spiritual change (God answering their prayers). That's a lot of change!

But the ultimate leader, of course, was and is Jesus Christ. Seriously. Imagine trying to convince people that you are the promised Messiah when you are absolutely nothing like what they expected.

In the book Leading Change, author James O'Toole introduces his case for values-based leadership by discussing a painting called "Christ's Entry into Brussels in 1889". To give you sort of a nutshell version of his interpretation, Christ comes back and everybody is too busy, self-absorbed and distracted by the world around them to notice.

That must have been what it was like for Jesus the first time around. Your people have faith and are expecting you, but they have been for thousands of years. Every day they go about their business - working, raising the kids, feeding the animals, washing their clothes in the river (that must have been fun) - and every day most of them find time to pray and worship and ask, once again, for the Messiah to arrive.

And one day He is there, but he's not a powerful king that slays your enemies, puts you in a nice house with indoor plumbing and tells you exactly what to do. He's poor, humble and (my guess is) usually soft-spoken. No wonder they didn't notice at first.

(to be continued)

Monday, August 14, 2006

A prayer of thanks

Thank you, Lord, for protecting our friends whose house was gutted by fire. What they lost can be replaced. They, on the other hand, cannot.

Comfort and keep them in this trying time. Help us to show them how much they are loved.

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Writus Interruptus

It's been one busy week. I worked overtime, made some new friends, had an urgent filling-replacement at the dentist. I also went to the driving range and watched too much TV. Not excuses, just reasons why I haven't been writing.

I'll resume my Powered by the Son series tomorrow. For today, enjoy this.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Powered by the Son - Part V

Read Part I
Read Part II
Read Part III
Read Part IV

Life is full of contradictions. We have to plan for the future while also living in the moment. We have to make amends for the past but not live there. We want to know what will happen tomorrow, next week or next year, but if we did it could drastically change what we do today, which would change tomorrow (the whole time travel dilemna from science fiction shows comes to mind).

In this work situation, I tended to live in the moment in a negative way...if things seemed stuck today I could not see how they would change. I assumed that if I wasn't being patted on the back today, or if my tasks were mundane, or if somebody else was advancing, that it would always be this way. It seemed like there was no hope that it would ever be my turn.

Of course I was wrong! There is nothing more constant in this world than change; it happens in and around us all the time! It's just sometimes hard to see, especially when we put the blinders on ourselves. Think about it...think about where you are today. Have you always been there? In the physical sense, I could never make that claim because I have moved 19 times! In the emotional sense, I am not the same person I was even a month ago. And in the spiritual sense, I change every single time I pray alone and every time I worship with others.

So what does all this have to do with leadership training? Well, at the core of leadership is the ability to prepare people to respond to change and to guide them through it. When you think of the word "leader", who do you think of? What situation do you recall that makes you feel this person is a good leader? Wasn't there change going on?

We are no longer being called the management team at work. We are the Leadership Team. Because, like my boss says, you don't manage people, you manage tasks. You lead people.


Saturday, August 05, 2006

Powered by the Son - Part IV

Read Part I
Read Part II
Read Part III

But wait, I forgot to tell you about the leadership training program week which came before the picnic! It was an important week for me in many ways.

The promotion I received was, if I can be less than humble, well deserved and long overdue. So how could it have been so unexpected? Because even after all these years of working (30-plus...yikes), I lacked perspective. I was, at times, so blinded by resentment and self-doubt that I could not see the obvious signs that I was being groomed for a leadership position.

Several years ago my department was reorganized. It went from a two-team, two-boss structure with little staff input to a multi-team structure with middle-managers who participated in the goal-setting and daily operational decisions of the department. Since then I had attended the manager meetings for the sole purpose (I thought) of taking notes and running the projector. I participated in some of the discussions, but did not have a vote when it came time to make decisions.

Most of the time this did not bother me. But as the years went by I became convinced that I was just being used; that I would always be considered not quite good enough for full membership in the elite group. This stinkin' thinkin' was all in my head and, as it turned out, bore little in common with reality. Should my boss have done more to let me know that I was being groomed for advancement? Maybe. Should I have talked to him, or someone else I trusted, about the situation. I did...many times. But in hindsight, my tendency to think the worst about myself may have clouded what was being said. That, combined with the sometimes excruciatingly slow way things change in the work world, made it seem like I would be stuck in the same position forever unless I left the company.

But change was on the horizon, as it always is.


Friday, August 04, 2006

Powered by the Son - Part III

Read Part I
Read Part II

The day after the picnic, we piled into our cars and drove south to Cleveland for the church youth convention. This is a fun event that I've been going to semi-regularly since I was a teenager. Of course, it was more fun when I was the "youth" and not a chaperone.

The most important objective of a youth convention, in my opinion, is the friendship. I met some of my best friends, including my husband, as a result of the youth of our various churches across the midwest and the entire country meeting, playing and worshiping together. I wrote a long time ago (here, here and here) about my friendships that started at these events.

As I watched the young people interacting last week through the lens of middle age, I felt joy and hope for their futures. I wondered who would end up together, and tried to picture them in 25 years being at a convention as chaperones while their kids were making new friends. It was the circle of life playing out before my eyes.

But this isn't just a bunch of people getting together for the sake of gathering. What makes it so special, what brings us there in the first place, is our common faith. We came together in the name of the Lord. We came to a place and time that was Powered by the Son.


Thursday, August 03, 2006

The Teacup

Why is it that I never sleep late except on days when I have to be somewhere early? Maybe it's just the weather turning, but I woke up late this morning feeling like a lump of clay.

Reminds me of the Teacup story. I've read it several different places, but I picked one for you that has a soundtrack.

Back to the Powered by the Son tomorrow.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Powered by the Son - Part II

Read Part I

One of my character defects is perfectionism. It's what prevents me from writing and posting every day, causes me to procrastinate even on the most routine of tasks, and makes me the worst delegator in the world (see...I think if I'm not the best at something I must be the worst).

A classic example is when I volunteered to chair a dance marathon back in high school. There were lots of things to do, and I remember clearly sitting there handing out assignments and saying "I'll just do that" to most of them. Of course the thing never got off the ground. The group didn't have anything important to do, so most of them didn't show up for the next meeting.

When I suddenly had no way of doing this whole picnic thing by myself (as if I ever had to in the first place), I felt that God was sending me a clear signal. Over the years I had certainly become better at working with other people and letting go of the need to control everything. But my new job responsibilities will include being a supervisor for the first time, so I absolutely had to learn to delegate effectively.

Sarah stepped up and took charge of the local end of things. She came up with ideas, worked with her mom and brother on logistics and shopping, and did a lot of the communication and coordination. We had early morning planning meetings on the phone and she worked on her assignments while I worked at my job. We were more a team than leader and follower, which is how I want to be with my new team at work.

God uses situations to teach, and both Sarah and I learned a lot from this experience. And because we prayed for guidance and shared the load, the picnic was a huge success! This was an especially sweet day for me, nestled between what I will remember as two of the most important weeks in my life.


Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Powered by the Son - Part I

I am just now starting to recover mentally from the intensity of the past couple of weeks. I'm back to work, back to the normal routine of my life.

But I don't want to lose the power of the feelings I've experienced. Maybe writing about them will help me remember and to take action on them every day.

It all actually started back in June. I was in Michigan for the graduation of my niece and nephew, having a great time visiting with friends and family at the party. I asked about the annual church picnic (which I try to make every year if I possibly can) and was told that there might not be one because nobody had volunteered to run it. Well, I couldn't let that happen! So I volunteered to run it from 300 miles away! No problem, that's what I do in my professional life...run projects. We set the date, made the announcement, and launched the picnic project.

A few days later, to my ultimate surprise, I got a huge promotion! Cool! But the promotion came with a requirement to attend a week-long leadership training seminar the week before the picnic! This meant I couldn't be in Michigan until the day before the picnic, so I couldn't do the shopping or the decorating or anything. I needed help!

I quickly recruited my niece Sarah to be my co-project manager for the picnic.