Sunday, November 30, 2008

Is This Why They Call It Black Friday?

The day after Thanksgiving, Black Friday, signals the start of Christmas shopping season and is the biggest shopping day of the year.  Some stores open as early as 4 am and hordes of people gather even earlier to get a great deal.   

This year, Black Friday turned fatal.   In Long Island, NY, Jdimytai Damour, a 34 year old Walmart worker was trampled to death by frenzied shoppers.    Unfortunately, this was followed by a tragic shooting at a Toys R Us in Palm Desert, California where two men were killed in a dispute.   Apparently, a heated argument escalated to the point where both men pulled firearms and started shooting.   

It's just sad.   Think about it - a person is trampled to death over the pursuit of a big discount... two men are killed over a shopping dispute.    

What does it say about us as a society?   Are these big chain retailers responsible in any way or are these just random tragic events?   What is wrong with this picture and what can be done about it?  

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Being Thankful for Your Job

Happy Thanksgiving! It's a time for thankful reflection for family, friends and good health. That's absolutely appropriate but many of us will overlook the blessing of our jobs, co-workers and simply the ability to work.

Earlier in my working life, I've been apt to take my job for granted. However, a number of years ago, following the dotcom bust, I was out of work for an extended period and in some ways, it was the best thing for me. I realized how much I took for granted. I had proudly assumed that I was always employable because that my skills were "in demand". Sure, I acknowledged that it was God who provided for our needs as a family but I didn't truly believe it.

Nine months of unemployment has a way of curing that attitude. I realized that God does provide for me even when I don't truly appreciate it. I realized that if God didn't give me the ability to work, equip me for work or provide the opportunity to work, I would really be destitute. It made me grateful that He does all these things for me.

As we head into economic uncertainty, here are a few things to be grateful for -

- The ability to work. To have the strength and skills to work is something to be truly be grateful for.

- The opportunity to work. If you've ever been unemployed for a lengthy period of time, you know what I'm talking about. When times are good, we assume opportunities will always abound but it's God's kindness that we have work.

- Our co-workers. We spend nearly a third of our week at work and many meaningful social interactions occur at work. Some of the best friendships are developed at work. OK - some of our co-workers aren't so easy to get along with. But even those challenges can be God appointed. They are meant to serve us by helping us grow in patience, kindness and our response may offer an opportunity for the gospel to be preached.

- Finally, we can be thankful that our work doesn't define us. We're made in the image of God - our work is not just provision for us, it's a means for worship. So our work isn't the ultimate, God is. It's a blessing to be able to work without work enslaving and defining our lives.

Do you have any other thoughts along these lines? What are you grateful for this Thanksgiving?

Friday, November 14, 2008

Quote of the Week

"No one was ever scolded out of their sins"

William Cowper (1731 -1800) ; In a Letter to John Newton.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

When We Fail

If you have any responsibilities at all, sooner or later, you'll fail. Sometimes, it might be sooner and more often than we'd like.

Sometimes, our failure is measured by an outcome - when we're unable to complete a project on time or when we're not fulfilling business objectives. At other times, failure might happen when we don't measure up to an ethical or behavioral standard. For instance, we might find ourselves becoming angry at a colleague during a meeting or perhaps we realized that we didn't give our best effort on a project.

My question is - what do you do when you fail...when you mess up...or even when you sin. My area of weakness? Impatience and anger... I can become impatient when others don't perform at the level I expect them to... and sometimes I get angry. A few weeks back, I found myself very impatient in relating to a colleague and actually getting angry because I judged him to be unresponsive to my requests. By God's grace, I was able to apologize and ask for his forgiveness. I was grateful for his willingness to forgive my impatience but I found myself discouraged and embarrassed that I had failed in this way. Sure, I know that failure is inevitable but somehow, knowing that doesn't make it much easier, does it?

More importantly, how should we respond to our failures?

I think it's helpful to bear in mind that we're not defined by our failures any more than by our successes. God is not impressed with our completed projects or business accomplishments. We cannot relate to him on any basis other than the work of Jesus Christ. We approach him as sinners, having received grace from Christ alone.

We can and should also humble ourselves when we sin. It may be hard to ask for forgiveness when we get angry but as sinners who have been forgiven much, it's the right thing to do. When we humble ourselves, the Bible assures us that God grants favor to us.

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another for "God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble". (1 Peter 5:5)

When we humble ourselves, God will redeem even our greatest failures... somehow, we might end up showing those we work with, that we're no better than they are... we can approach them as fellow sinners, in need of grace.

Humility also helps us to examine ourselves - we can honestly evaluate our performance. Perhaps we failed to do our best because we were lazy or maybe our failure is just a reflection of our limited gifts and abilities. In either case, we can trust God to help us - to direct us to a better way.

What do you think of leaders when they fail? How do you cope with failure? How do you respond when you sin against those you work with?

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Quote of the Week

"...servant leadership is not an abstract ideal; it is completely practical and workable. Having a Christian worldview means being utterly convinced that biblical principles are not only true but also work better in the grit and grime of the real world."

Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth, p. 370