Sunday, September 28, 2008

On Call 24.7

I have a friend who formerly held a job with a large company that required her to carry a company phone and be on call virtually at all times. She technically had some days that she was "off duty," but due to her position as head over safety for the whole factory, "off duty" time meant nothing in the case of an accident that slowed down production. I remember meeting her for a quick lunch one day, only to have it disturbed by an emergency at work. This friend of mine, a powerful woman, hung up her phone, eyes threatening to spill over with tears, and said, "I just want to eat lunch with my friend in peace. Can't I just have an hour without being on duty?"

I feel for my friend. Her life was dictated by that little annoying gadget on her hip that could reach her anywhere (which meant everywhere). I remember thinking about how glad I was that I didn't have a job where I had to be on call all the time. I think I was sympathetic toward her and told her that she certainly deserved some time off every now and then, just as everyone deserves time off every now and then. And yet, I'm not so sure if I agree with myself anymore.

First...a qualification: everyone needs to take time to rest. In scripture we hear of that time as observing the Sabbath. I won't take the time right now to talk about why I think Sabbath is so important (and I do! I really, really do!), but what I do want to talk about is about the importance of living out our faith 24.7.

I'm currently teaching a Sunday School class at my church on the book of Philippians. I really don't know why I chose Philippians, except that several of my favorite verses are in it. I'm using a commentary by Tom Wright for some background info, but we're moving through pretty slowly and asking lots of questions of the text, and of ourselves. We've only made it through chapter 1, but one of the things that I've been struck by so far has to do with our citizenship as a Christian. Newsflash: as a Christian, I must relinquish any of my own rights and privileges, and take on the perspective of being a Kingdom citizen. This shouldn't be revolutionary, should it? And yet, far too often, I want to be a good Christian when the setting is convenient, but not if it requires something of me.

In various ways throughout chapter 1 of Philippians, Paul mentions that the Christians to whom he is writing will suffer. In fact, in verse 29 of chapter 1, he actually says that it is a privilege that they can suffer for Christ. What kind of masochistic man is that Paul? It sounds like the beginnings of the Opus Dei a la Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code. And yet, I become ever convinced that the suffering that Paul is talking about is not just something that the select few in the time of the earliest persecution of the church will experience. Rather, if we are reading the gospel correctly, we must acknowledge that obedience to it requires an element of suffering, no matter who you are. The gospel of Jesus Christ tells me that as a Christian, I'm required to take up my cross daily and follow Christ. That same passage goes on to say that if I want to gain my life, I must lose it. What a crazy gospel this is, is it not? To paraphrase C.S. Lewis' famous quote,
this gospel must either be crazy or be true. Why would people follow a God that required so much? The only plausible explaination that I can come up with is that people follow it because the God that authors that salvation story has transformed their lives and requires nothing less than offering our lives back to him.

And now...I return to my initial thoughts about being "on call 24.7." While my friend ended up quitting her job that sucked the life out of her because she was always on duty, in God's economy, we have the opportunity to live "on call 24.7" and actually find true life in Christ. And all that God expects in exchange is that we willingly lay down our lives for him. All the time. At work and at play. In our relationships. In our amusements. In our wallets, purses and bank accounts. In our despair. In our joy. It sounds like God is asking too much, and yet what a great God we serve! I give him my rags, and he gives me his righteousness. But why, oh why are those rags so difficult to give up?

Monday, September 22, 2008

Sock Monkeys and Blogging

Okay...I found this and it made me chuckle (and think of my sister and my friend, Amber). I know that I could have just linked this to the article itself, but I also like to read the blog and wanted to post it here.

The link is to a blog about a sock monkey ministry. There's something in the world for everyone. I'm just saying...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

The Pain of Change

I spent the better part of the afternoon and early evening rearranging my office. Coming from a person that doesn't love change--but loves order--it was a bit of a painful, yet refreshing experience. A couple of weeks ago, just several days before all the students returned to campus, I had the opportunity to get a different desk. Considering the fact that my former desk was functional, but was HUGE for my smallish office, I was thrilled at the prospect of getting one that was more flexible in size (and has a great built-in light!). The new desk would be great, but the timing was about as bad as it could be! The week before students come and the first week that they're here are about the busiest days of the year on campus. Think Macy's on the day after Thanksgiving! We have a very integrated campus when it comes to faculty and staff involvement and so I end up playing several roles when it comes to those first two weeks and I was not in any mood to play Trading Spaces with my office. And yet, because of the disdain I had for my old desk and the sweet built-in light, I packed up my desk and prepared to rearrange.

On the appointed day, (with much anticipation, I might add) I opened my door to see my new desk in it's proper position. Unfortunately because this new one was shorter on one side and longer on the other, it left about an 8 inch swath between the desk and a bookshelf through which I might squeeze. My co-worker said, "That's a bruise waiting to happen." And right she was! I've gotten at least 2 since my new arrangement happened! So, finally today I invested 3.5 hours of my life to bring a little order to the chaos that was my office. I cleaned out filing cabinets, moved a very-full (and very dusty!) bookshelf (which made me temporarily wish that I wasn't such a bibliophile, but just temporarily! I do love my books!), and separated the two parts of the desk to make my office more inviting. If someone would have seen me an hour before I was done, they would have thought that a tornado came my way, but by now, everything looks like it's been exactly where it is for months. The new arrangement is fantastic! My office looks twice as big, is comfortable and looks like a place that welcomes people to come and "sit a spell," instead of getting an answer to their question and moving on to the next task on their list. Looking at the new arrangement makes me wonder why I waited 3 years to push things around a bit since I was never really happy with how it formerly was.

Change is inevitable, they say. But that doesn't make it easy. I suppose that's a good thing. Establishing patterns are part of Christian discipleship. Sometimes the patterns (or disciplines, to use a not very fun sounding word) carry us through the times in our lives when our motivation can't. But patterns can sometimes kill, or at least bruise, us spiritually. We get used to playing a certain role in a community, or doing the things that we know will keep us safe and (moderately) happy, or doing what we've always done because even if we aren't totally happy, at least we know what to expect. And then, every now and then, something happens to jar us into a new reality. We get sick, get a new job, take a risk, watch someone else get sick, get a new job or take a risk and we realize that the patterns that we've been living in have constricted us to a place where we're no longer trusting God with the future, but rather controlling it (or at least attempting to) with our well-worn patterns.

Clearly rearranging my office is nothing compared to the kind of changes that really shock our systems and instill in us a sense of the awareness of God's provision at EVERY level in life. And yet, God speaks, even through rearranging an office. The message that he's whispering to me is that what may feel inconvenient, difficult, or even painful in the moment can serve to free us from our status quo and open us to the winds of change that blow through from time to time. And at least right now, some of the clutter (and dust!) is gone.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

My new favorite blog

A couple of years ago, I started reading a blog that was probably one of the first that I ever read with any regularity. It was called WesleyBlog and was written by Shane Raynor. The blog went silent for some time but has now been resurrected in a new form. Here it is...enjoy!

Thursday, September 04, 2008

My new favorite song

Here's a link to my new favorite song that I heard on a Relevant Podcast a couple of months ago. The video absolutely cracks me up! It's on the Relevant TV broadcast and you have to click on the Pork and Beans video by Weezer. You should see nods to a couple of YouTube favorites.