Saturday, June 25, 2005

Faith Walk: Chapter 3

This post is part of a series of journal transcriptions from my second retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, KY during May 28 to May 30, 2004.

Saturday May 29, 2004 11:10 AM EST (Part 1)

I resume my story from Chapter 1. I have just returned from a three hour hike through the woods and among the hills west of the Abbey. The Abbey of Gethsemani is the largest, and America's oldest, order of Cistercian Monks and was founded in 1848. It encompasses approximately 2000 acres (3.1 sq. mi.) of rolling hills, woodlands, lakes, and fields. It was a beautiful, sun swept morning when I walked into the midst of God’s world, emptied my heart, and asked Him to speak to me. Time lost its relevance freeing me to contemplate and listen concerning the decisions I am facing in the coming week. Back to that story and April 2004.

I am facing imminent unemployment and after six months of a vigorous job search, I have no prospects. It appears that May will be my last month of income. I begin contingency planning for joblessness; financial planning for living on unemployment, including liquidating my assets and 401k; how long can I keep my house; when to sell, etc.

Job leads pop up sporadically, but they all drop into the abyss of "we will keep your resume on file." Periods of doubt and depression ghost me, but I force myself to stay focused on moving forward and trusting God. I keep telling myself He will provide. In my heart and subconscious, I trust Him. So many prayers on my family’s behalf from so many people fortify me. My men's group provides strong support. Moving from late April into early May, I am really in a hole now. No job prospects. May termination becomes more likely everyday. Doug, a co-worker at CIC Global, my close friend and Christian confidant, has found a job and has left CIC. Being in the office is very difficult, especially with little to do. Everything is on hold as we wait for the sale of the company to close.

Through all this, I am traveling to Philadelphia periodically. I am helping to prepare for arbitration over a contract and Intellectual Property dispute involving CIC. I am a key person in defending CIC’s parent company, Exelon Energies in the case, yet they are about to dump me on the street. All inquiries about a severance for my service go unheeded. In addition, several disappointments occur in my spiritual life.

My men’s group has been praying hard for one of our members for a long time concerning a very bad situation involving his alcoholic daughter and her children. This situation has been a burden on the family for years and continues to worsen rapidly. It seems the harder we pray the worse things get.

Another family I have been praying for just received devastating news. Their daughter has been diagnosed with cystic fibrosis. I truly felt in my heart that the answer would be good news. Another negative answer to diligent prayer. These two families, my job—so many unanswered or negatively answered prayers it seems. Nevertheless, I stay faithful, desperately telling myself that God will provide. My mind does not want to hang onto this hope, this illogic in the face of surface evidence. It wants to give in to the despair that feels like an attack upon my soul. It probably is; from Satan.

So, I struggle uphill in my walk of faith. To that effort, I spend more time in contemplation, praying, and being with God now. I will not abandon God, even if I feel He may be abandoning me. My reasoning of faith says He is not, but so much of me wants to give up the fight of believing God is active rather than passive. I remind myself that God has provided for me over the last several months. I could easily be out of work, but the deal for CIC has dragged on keeping me employed.

During this period of April to May 2004, I had been meditating on another spiritual issue that has been on and off again since my first trip to Gethsemani. That is the issue of tithing. Anita and I wanted to tithe, but we did not feel like we could. Of course, I know this was just a rationalization and excuse. Had I ever seriously analyzed what it would take to do so? No. I had not crunched any numbers to see what adjustments to our lifestyle were needed in order to tithe. This proved that my heart was not really in the right place. I knew the time had come to change this. At the same time I was resurrecting this thought process, Tim Woodroof began a series of lessons on money, tithing, and debt as spiritual issues, not as financial issues. His lessons were powerful and carried the impact of the truth. His series solidified my thinking. Whatever happens to my family, job wise, tithing from our gross income is going to be the first budget item, regardless of the changes we need to make.

Within days after making this decision, a major blessing occurred. Through the Belmont University placement office, I received a job notice for Sr. Operations Analyst at Ingram Barge Company. A close friend of mine worked for Ingram Barge. We met in the Belmont MBA pr0gram and become close friends and professional colleagues. My friend had already given Ingram my resume for general purposes much earlier. I called him to ask for assistance on this opportunity. He says, “They should have already called you. I gave my boss your resume several days ago. It is my job that they are trying to fill; I got a promotion.”

What a door the Lord opened for me! A great company and a job that would transition me from engineering into operations and business. This was a career path I was seeking, and on that was almost a necessity in order to stay in Nashville. Engineering opportunities were few. Ingram called and we set up an interview. The interview went okay, but I did not feel the man to whom I would report cared for my personality. He said he was concerned that I talked about myself too much. Well, it was an interview. I am supposed to present myself, but maybe he was right. I put this down as something to consider going forward. He also noted that I could talk a lot easily. Truth hurts.

More than a week had gone by with no word from Ingram. I begin resigning myself to another disappoint.

Faith Walk: Chapter 2

This post is part of a series of journal transcriptions from my second retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, KY during May 28 to May 30, 2004.

Part 1 journey will continue very soon in Part 2. I am posting just as I journaled.

Notes from Father Matthew’s Homily: Friday May 28, 2004 7:45 PM EST
Maximilian Kolbe, the Saint of Auschwitz, martyred himself at the Auschwitz death camp to save an innocent young man who was one of ten chosen to be killed as an example by the camp Commandant. The young man cried in anguish, “'My poor wife! 'My poor children! What will they do?” The catholic priest volunteered to take his place and the Commandant accepted his sacrifice. Some credit Kolbe’s actions as a major factor in the confession and conversion of Rudolph Hess in his last days.

1938 True Story: A young white man jumping into a moving rail car—half in, half out—could not pull himself in. Facing certain death, he prayed to God to save him. A large, black hand reached out and pulled him into the rail car. After the young man caught his breath, he rolled over to find the rail car empty. He says, “If man has a guardian angel, he is a large, black male in his mid-30’s.”

The phrase “knock on wood” refers to knocking on the wood of the cross.

What you do to your fellow man you do to Christ. Christ lives in the present and your sins affect Christ in the present. You only have one life on earth, and it is short, so live it for God. You will fail, and you are flawed, but push on. Your work will be imperfect, but what does that have to do with anything? Who you are doesn’t matter, but Who you know does!

Monday, June 20, 2005

Faith Walk: Chapter 1

This post is part of a series of journal transcriptions from my second retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, KY during May 28 to May 30, 2004.

Friday May 28, 2004 2:40 PM EST
It is a serene, early afternoon as I begin my second retreat at Gethsemani. I have walked to the top of St. Joseph’s Hill across from the entranceway to the Abbey, and I am sitting next to the statue that adorns the hill. Joseph, with the baby Jesus in his arms, looks out over the Abbey, while I gaze out over the rolling Kentucky Hills and miles of countryside. It is a warm, just bordering on hot, humid day with thick billowing clouds rolling over the hills surrounding the Abbey. Although the sun shines through frequently, you can feel rain in the air just waiting for its chance. When the breeze blows during cloud cover, it is cool and almost damp.

Thunder concussions, deep and vibrating, resonate in from the distance, while bright yellow butterflies chase each other above the high grass around me. Swallows skim over the meadows in stunning acrobatics performing their dinner ballet. Farm equipment drones peacefully from outlying fields. As with my first retreat, God has looked at my time line, and He has put me where I need to be on this weekend. I could not foresee where I would be, what decisions would be looming, what frame of mind I would be in six months ago when I booked this retreat. God did.

In October 2003, I made the decision to leave my employer, CIC Global. Things were not looking good, and I was certainly not happy. Therefore, I started the job search process. In December 2003, our owners announced that they were selling CIC. By February, they had a prospective buyer. The prospect, DCSI, was in St. Louis, MO, and I was not part of the deal; my position was redundant. My job search had been futile so far, and I knew I was going to lose this job after a deal was completed. I prayed fervently for God to be involved and to deliver me to a job.

Around March, DCSI brought everyone to St. Louis for interviews, a tour of the company, and a group tour with a realtor. They even invited me, although I had no idea why. Turns out, they had a position they needed to fill, and they thought I might be a viable candidate. The position was Director of Engineering over two departments totaling approximately 23 people. I very much wanted to stay in Nashville, but a good job with a decent company, and a big step forward professionally, would be difficult to refuse. In the following weeks, they brought me, along with my wife and daughter, back to St. Louis for additional interviews, for a management screening test, and to meet with a realtor. I quickly went from being the odd man out to being the envy of the office, as this position seemed to be better than did my co-workers potential positions.

After my family’s return from the professional courtship, I heard nothing from DCSI. This occurred in parallel with another failed opportunity that left me baffled and that shook my confidence. A Director of Engineering over a small development staff at Frigidaire was available in Springfield, TN about 30 minutes north of Nashville. The position was as perfect a match with my resume as one could hope for in a job search. A recruiter working on behalf of the company submitted my resume, but I could not even get a phone interview.

An engineer I had worked with at Chromalox, worked in this group at Frigidaire. He had played politics at Chromalox and had hurt both a very close friend of mine and me. We were his two best friends at work. He used subterfuge to become Engineering Manager even though I had better qualifications, a much longer tenure, and the endorsement of my colleagues. He was eventually fired from Chromalox. He later apologized to me. I told him it was fine and forgiven. I told him that if I had gotten the promotion I would have stayed at Chromalox. Instead, I ended up leaving to start a business, and I eventually signed on full-time with my primary customer, CIC Global. My family and I were much better off financially, and I professionally, with CIC. That whole process enabled my wife to leave her job to be a stay-at-home mother to our newborn daughter. God indeed works in mysterious ways.

I thought everything was fine between us after his apology. The position at Frigidaire was this person’s boss. Whoever got the job, he would report to. After some tenaciousness on my part, the recruiter managed to secure a phone interview for me. The interviewer was trying to fill his former position having just been promoted. The interview went well I thought. We were both Vanderbilt alumni in Electrical Engineering, and we shared several professional colleagues through Belmont University where I had recently received my MBA. The scenario seemed perfect. I never heard back from him after the phone interview, which he concluded on a positive note implying a follow-up visit. I corresponded with him several times in an attempt to understand why the abrupt ending to the process. With me being a local candidate, he had little risk in a personal interview other than time. He never answered any of my voice mails, emails, nor letters. Nor did he ever explain to the recruiter either. A strange situation. I have no idea if my “friend” poisoned the well, but it is difficult not to suspect.

Heading into April 2004, I had no job prospects, not much hope, and termination at CIC Global was pending. I had constantly prayed through this process that the Lord give me the wisdom to discern His will and the strength to execute it.

I am interrupted in my writing at this point by an older gentleman who has walked to the hilltop and has begun talking on his cell phone! After concluding his call, he tells me he has been on retreat before. I guess the silent retreat aspect has eluded him. The retreats at Gethsemani are to be primarily silent. Only a few places are designated for conversation. The hilltop was not one of them. The man cheerfully ignores my silent, but polite, responses and proceeds to engage me in a one-way conversation.

I leave the hill deciding to walk to the statues of the Garden of Gethsemane.[1] As I am walking in the woods, I begin to pray. I try to empty myself asking God to fill me, for the Holy Spirit to fill me. “God, please speak to me and let me know the path you wish me to walk.” Immediately, I feel a sense of peace and gracious emotion. At this moment, I walk around a bend in the path and come upon one of the tablets, icons, and statues that adorn the paths and grounds at Gethsemani. This tablet reads, “Behold I send an angel before you, to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place which I have prepared. Give heed to him and hearken to his voice.” [Exodus 23:20-21] My eyes fill with tears. How can any one not believe in God our Father? If you seek him, he will find you and answer you! I am reminded of a statement by Father Matthew during one his homilies. “Never stop talking to God, and He will never leave you.”

I walk out of the woods into the meadow that surrounds the copse where the statues are located. Bluebirds and gold finches greet me their colors brilliant and vibrant. If you look carefully and quietly, you can find Hummingbirds in the copse edge, which is an impenetrable border of wildflowers. This is truly a place of peace and abiding with God. No one is around now. Thunder still echoes in the distance.

I walk into the copse and up to the statues. Looking at the statue of Jesus praying in agony, my eyes immediately cloud with tears again. I cannot look upon icons like this without emotion since seeing The Passion of Christ.

[1] The statues were donated in honor of a young seminarian who traveled to Alabama during the civil rights movement. Witnessing an escalating argument between a young women and a law enforcement officer who raised his weapon to shoot, he stepped in and took the bullet for her. A plaque at the path entrance to the statues reads: In memory of Jonathon M Daniel. Episcopal seminarian martyred in Alabama Aug. 20, 1965. Donated to the Monastery by William Coolidge of Boston, MA. Walker Hancock sculptor. May we always remember that the Church exists to lead men to Christ in many and varied ways, but it is always the same Christ.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Faith Walk: Prologue

This prologue begins a series of transcription of journal entries I made during my second retreat at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Trappist, KY that occurred from May 28 to May 30, 2004.

Prologue: 1st Gethsemani Retreat August 15-17, 2003
Thomas Merton, in his autobiography The Seven Storey Mountain, wrote, “Without a life of the spirit our whole existence becomes unsubstantial and illusory.”[1] In May of 2003 when I booked an August weekend retreat at Gethesemani Abbey, I had not yet read these words. I did not realize at the time that God’s spirit was influencing me, hoping that in my free will that I would act on His exhortation. I did act and His paternal love and mercy were revealed to me those many months later.

Gethsemani is situated among the rolling hills in the middle of Kentucky well off the main highways. The Abbey is surrounded by fields and miles of wooded land in which several small lakes are hidden. When you are on retreat at Gethsemani, it is almost entirely a silent respite. Your time is not directed. You are free to attend any of the eight daily prayer and worship periods of the monks with the first, Vigils, occurring at 3:15 AM. You have a room with linens supplied and meals are provided. You are absolved of any duties during your stay according to Saint Benedict’s Rule for Monasteries, which states the guest represents Christ and has a claim on the welcome and care of the community. The monks, the facilities, the worship services, and the surrounding miles of nature see to it that external distractions are removed. Merton, a monk at Gethsemani for twenty-seven years, described this atmosphere as a place “to entertain silence in the heart and listen for the voice of God—to pray for your own discovery.” The purpose of a Gethsemani retreat is communion with God through prayer, meditation, worship, and personal reflection. I cannot imagine anyone having a lukewarm experience in this place.

On the second day of my retreat, a beautiful Saturday morning with the sun burning off the early morning mist, I went for a walk to the statues of the Garden of Gethsemane. The statues are two life size sculptures, one depicting the apostles sleeping in the garden and the other of Christ praying in agony.[2] A serene hike through the woods and over a hill brings you to an opening meadow. In this large, mowed meadow is a copse engulfing a small hill where the statues are located. I did not proceed directly into the woods via the statue path, but decided to walk around the edge of the thicket in the meadow.

The edge of the thicket was a deep, impenetrable wall of wild flowers with bees and insects performing a wonderful symphony of nature. I was completely alone as I strolled around the far side of the hill. As I walked, I began to concentrate and reflect on the main purpose I had for this retreat. Not a purpose I consciously had three months prior, but a thorn that had recently moved from periodic discomfort to a pain of very sharp focus.

Over the last three years, I had been struggling with stress and unhappiness, even though my religious life was more active than ever. I was more involved at church, and I had started attending a small, intimate men’s fellowship. Yet, I was not content. Job stress seemed never ending. My marriage was not as intimate as it should be and was even contentious at times. I was searching for inner peace, but it eluded me. The only things that were bringing me happiness were my precious daughter, worship, listening to music or reading in solitude, and my men’s group. My unhappiness at work and home quickly brought me out of those fleeting moments of peace.

My crisis was that I was miserable trying to please others. I felt I could not do enough to please my wife, my boss, or the company president. This is not necessarily an indictment of these individuals; they were just the people in my life that required the most time and accountability. My self worth and acceptance have always been tied too much to what I perceived others think. I tend to associate my mistakes with failure. Small embarrassments become lingering trauma. I worry about what my peers’ and my acquaintances’ opinions of me are. Of all the circles in which I have moved throughout my life, schools, jobs, churches, etc., only in a very few have I felt that I truly fit. This behavior was slowly devouring me. In my men’s fellowship, we were studying simplicity and a contemplative life. I defined what this meant to me as peace of soul, a contentment that is removed from circumstance. I defined it, but why could I not achieve it?

I had discussed my struggles with a counselor and she asked me if I thought God was ever unhappy with me? I answered most assuredly. I sin, and He must get angry over some of the things I do. “Does this depress you in the same way?” she asked? I answered “no”, and she questioned, “why not?” I thought hard on this for a week. The answer I arrived at was God’s assured love for me, His grace through Christ. I have salvation despite my failings. She posed the question, “If you can see God this way and accept yourself because of it, even with sin, why do you elevate the opinion of others above this?” Merton described this paradox so well when he wrote:

The logic of worldly success rests on a fallacy: the strange error that our perfection depends on the thoughts and opinions and applause of other men! A weird life it is, indeed, to be living always in somebody else’s imagination, as if that were the only place in which one could at last become real! [1]

Coming to Gethsemani I had reached a breaking point and God knew it. I just could not survive work and home anymore basing my feelings of self on the emotions of those around me. As I moved around the backside of the hill, I began to contemplate and pray about my unhappiness. I realized that I was basing my identity, not on Christ, but on my perceptions of the judgments of others. My minister, Tim Woodroof, had said we must find our identity in Christ alone. We are not spouses, fathers and mothers, business people, doctors, ministers etc. We are Christians.
I knew it as truth but I was not practicing it. Alone in contemplation and prayer, all this came to me in internal acceptance and understanding. How often do we know a truth in our minds, but fail to accept it in our hearts?

The light hit me in this meadow, my road to Damascus. God said to my heart, “I am your identity, accept it. Let go of what others think of you, or worse, what you think they think. I let my Son die for you. What more do you need to know about yourself?” [Ro. 5:1-5] Tears flowed. I am okay; not perfect, but loved by God. It is only through Christ that I am made perfect, and He loved me enough to die doing so. [Jn. 16:33]

I proceeded back to the statues and entered the wood to view them. I knelt down to pray in front of the sculpture of Jesus on His knees, head lifted heavenward, hands clasped over His face, praying in agony. I lifted up a prayer of thanks for God’s revelation and the peace I was feeling. I began by petitioning the Lord to empty me of myself and to fill me with His Holy Spirit. I then asked God to help me not focus on the people at work, to let me not judge myself through them, to help me be a good father, a good husband, and to ….

I realized I was immediately falling into the same ironic trap by praying for assistance in being those things that are not my root identity. They were not necessarily bad things to pray for, but off the mark at that moment. I emptied my heart. I prayed, “Let me focus on being your creature.” If I can do this then I cannot help but be a good father, husband, or employee. If I know my root identity, I will act from it. I had taken the first infant steps toward contentment that is removed from circumstance. I tried to record my emotions and contemplation in a psalm.

A Prayer of Supplication and Identity
Prayer and Lamentation
1 O Lord God, I came to you burdened and alone. My spirit pained; torment and ridicule haunted me.
2 Am I not a good husband, a loving father God? Am I not diligent and concerned at my work?
3 O why then, Father, cannot I make the world happy with me? Why do those surrounding me chastise me, O Lord?
4 Why am I not satisfied with myself? Why do I despair in my heart and beat upon my own soul?
5 O Father, it is not because I have turned from you! I worship and pray fervently. I serve you in more earthly ways than ever before.
6 Lord, my sins are fewer and less frequent than times past. Yet Your peace eludes me!
7 Why cannot I put on Your mantle of love and wear it like armour?
8 Your peace and love I taste at the plate of worship. Yet I cannot carry the fullness of the feast outside your Church.
9 The stomach of my soul growls with emptiness when I return to the world.

10 In the solitude of Your splendor, Lord, You answered me.
11 Do I not love you!
12 Do not My blessings and grace sustain you!
13 Stop searching for worldly approval and human justification.
14 It is I who justified you through creation. It is I who justified you through My only Son.
15 He gave His life to earthly death, was crucified for you. What other justification do you require?
16 Wake up child and become a man in Christ! Your identity is found solely in My Son and Him alone.
17 Let the feast of His sacrifice fill you and sustain you forever!


I had not read Merton’s comment on a life removed from the spirit when I booked the retreat. Yet those profound words succinctly express what God revealed to me that weekend. Although I had been a Christian all my life and I had a strong relationship with the Father, I still was not truly living in the Spirit. I had not completely undergone the spiritual transformation that is available to us when we accept Christ as our crucified and risen Savior, the One who died so that we might live eternally. That transformation for me is not being a Christian as a statement of fact, but being unable to separate my Christianity from myself anymore than being brown-eyed or being male. That my behavior and acts of charity are no longer motivated by Christian duty, but become an uncontrollable sharing of the overwhelming gift of grace.

Because I was not fully living in the Spirit, I was still a broken man. The truth is that much of my mental and emotional suffering was self-inflicted when I placed my identity in anything but Christ. I could not possibly achieve lasting peace and contentment independent of circumstance, because my life outside the spirit was not substantial and so much of what I thought I was, or supposed to be, was an illusion. Furthermore, I had never had a permanent movement of my will toward God’s will. Thus, my morals, my ethics, my actions, although sincere and good were at risk of being dead in the flesh, not alive in the Spirit. What is my purpose outside of Christ? What meaning does my life have outside the Spirit?

The struggle with my identity and my purpose are inevitable. It comes as I try to be in the world but not of the world. The busyness of my life, even in Christian activities, can allow Satan to systematically and covertly rob me of my true identity and cause me to seek justification through worldly actions. The primary avenues of his attacks are pride and the absence of stillness in my life. Only through regular removal from earthly matters to periods of contemplative prayer and meditation, can I retrench to the fundamental truths and renew myself in the Spirit—resulting in the rededication of my will to His will. Even Christ, in all His power and perfection, needed such time with His Father. Who am I, as a weaker creation, to need less?

So it is with all of us. We must constantly root our identity in the firm foundation of God’s living grace. Brothers and sisters, when you struggle with your identity, when you feel assailed and embattled by the world, I encourage you to take solace in Psalm 62: 1-8. [3]

1 My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him.
2 He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress, I will never be shaken.
3 How long will you assault a man? Would all of you throw him down – this leaning wall, this tottering fence?
4 They fully intend to topple him from his lofty place; they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless, but in their hearts they curse.
5 Find rest, O my soul, in God alone; my hope comes from him.
6 He alone is my rock and my salvation; He is my fortress, I will not be shaken.
7 My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my mighty rock, my refuge.
8 Trust in him at all times, O people; pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.
[1] Merton, Thomas. The Seven Story Mountain. Harvest Book Fiftieth Anniversary Ed., Harcourt Brace & Company 1999. ISBN 0-15-601086-0.

[2] The statues were donated in honor of a young seminarian who traveled to Alabama during the civil rights movement. Witnessing an escalating argument between a young women and a law enforcement officer who raised his weapon to shoot, he stepped in and took the bullet for her. A plaque at the path entrance to the statues reads: In memory of Jonathon M Daniel. Episcopal seminarian martyred in Alabama Aug. 20, 1965. Donated to the Monastery by William Coolidge of Boston, MA. Walker Hancock sculptor. May we always remember that the Church exists to lead men to Christ in many and varied ways, but it is always the same Christ.

[3] Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 by the International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved. The NIV and New International Version trademarks are registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by International Bible Society. Use of either trademark requires the permission of International Bible Society.

A version of this post first appeared in NewWineskins Magazine in the March/April Spiritual Formation Issue.

Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Upcoming Series

Almost a month ago I stated my plans for a series of blogs that brings some past journaling to life. Well, it is time. The first post will appear in the next day or two. It will be a prologue post about my first retreat to Gethsemani Abbey. A version of this experience was recently published in New Wineskins Magazine in their Spiritual Formation issue (Mar/Apr issue).

Last summer, during my second retreat at Gethsemani, I journaled about my faith walk over the last year or so. A period of spiritual growth, trial, and commitment that was greater than any other period in my life so far. Greater in terms of development during a specific time-frame. Something on the order of ~25% of the spiritual development in my life occurring in a 1-2 year period. Hard to quantify, and I am not really trying to do so. I am just trying to provide a feel for the effect of that time frame. At the end of the series I plan to summarize the events since the retreat, where I am, how things have worked out, etc.

So . . . stay tuned.


Friday, June 10, 2005

Jonathan Shaub is coming Home!

Follow the link and read about God's mercy and love. He is mighty! I am weeping tears of joy and praise as I write. My heart is exploding with praise and love and emotion that I cannot articulate. I am not sure I even want to try. I'll just reserve them for my Father and my Savior.
Just a few months ago we were praying that Jonathan would live, now he is coming home to Nashville. There were times of setbacks and slower than expected progress. But, in the past month Jonathan has leapt ahead of all expectations. But with God, the prayers of the world it seemed, and Jonathan, we should never have been surprised.

Hosanna, Hosanna, all praise to the Father.

Today is a day of celebration in my heart. Please read Jonathan's Blog.


Sunday, June 05, 2005

Joy At Work

I am reading a book that I feel is a very important read, entitled Joy at Work [PVG 2005, ISBN: 0-9762686-0-4]. The author is Dennis Bakke, a Christian, who co-founded the largest energy company in the world. You can follow the embedded links herein for more information. I whole-heartedly believe in the methods Mr. Bakke discusses. They parallel another man's profound ideas, W. Edwards Deming, who has had a great impact on my thought process(ref. Out of the Crisis; The New Economics). I present the following excerpts, in italics, for your consideration. I hope it provokes comments and thoughts about Discipleship and Work. More importantly, I hope it inspires you to read the book.

FYI: Mr. Bakke lives on 1% of his income and gives the rest away.

Bakke's purpose:
My passion is to make work exciting, rewarding, stimulating, and enjoyable.

One reason I am plugging the book:
This book is for you if you are: ... A priest, pastor, imam, or rabbi who is looking for a better way to understand and explain the relationship between faith and the jobs where congregates spend much of their time.

Work values Bakke espouses:
... The shared values [of AES are] Integrity, Fairness, Social Responsibility, and Fun. ... We defined fun to mean rewarding, exciting, creative, and successful. The idea that a company could be fun kept AES fresh and vibrant for years.

Note: Mr. Bakke is no longer CEO of AES, but the shared values are still included in the company's Code of Business Conduct and Ethics].

Discipleship application:
... For Christians, Jews, and Muslims, the story of Adam and Eve and the Fall often is cited as the reason that work is difficult. A few years ago, I was asked to give the commencement address at Eastern University, a Christian school in Pennsylvania. My topic was "Fun in the Workplace." In preparation, I reread the Genesis account of the Creation and realized that many of us have misinterpreted the story. [bold type replaces original italic emphasis]

God created Adam and Eve and placed them in the Garden of Eden. In the Garden, they named and cared for the animals. They tilled the ground and harvested the fruit and vegetables. In other words, they seemed to spend much of their time "working." Their work was not hard, difficult, or the least bit boring. It was paradise. The whole experience sublime. Of course, they sinned and were ousted from the garden, and life became more difficult. It is this last part of the story that appears to mark our attitude and expectations about work.

[Ref: Genesis 1:28; 2:15; 3:17-19. Gen. 2:3 (why the need for a Holy Day of rest if pre-fall man was to have no work?)]

Another way to view the story, however, is that God intended that the workplace be beautiful, exciting, and satisfying. Work was to be filled with joy. Work was a major reason for our creation. It was intended to be an important act of worship. It was one of the most significant ways in which we could honor our Creator. From this perspective it is our responsibility to do whatever we can to make the modern workplace the way it was intended to be. While I realize the world is not the Garden of Eden, I do believe it is incumbent on those of us in leadership roles to do whatever we can to make the workplace as fun and successful as we can. [bold type emphasis added]

Does this spur any thoughts, any revelations? Do you agree with Mr. Bakke? Disagree?

Peace, Tony

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Doubt as Proof of God

A pondering that is a little bit off my normal topic and which was inspired by a reaction I had while reading during lunch today.

Have you ever been reading something or just thinking in general about the profound aspects of Christianity and have a very brief wave of doubt sweep over you? For example, your thinking about the magnitude of God, God before time, omniscient God, omnipresent God--really letting the complete infinity of God sink in, while at the same time realizing that you truly believe these things and believe in God's existence. And, when all these considerations start coming together, when you almost grasp it and your heart is saying yes, yes, a wave of doubt washes over you. Your brain blurts out, "this is just too fantastic. Does this really make sense? I cannot comprehend this, can it be true?"

Or, your reading scripture or someone's writing about Christ, considering what His sacrifice really meant, what it did, how it worked, and you are becoming emotional about grace while the deep realities of Christ are beginning to gel in your brain--and all of sudden questioning and doubt sweep in. Have you ever experienced this?

There are two unique aspects about these questions and doubts that are important to the consideration I am going to raise. One, they are a sudden, 180 degree shift from the thoughts and feelings you were having at the moment they occurred. Second, they are not lingering nor lasting. They may be the exact same questions and doubts that one has during a crisis of faith, but they are not manifested as such at the moment. You can quickly push them aside with a, "yes I do believe, I don't necessarily comprehend it, but I believe and I am not getting bogged down with any of those issues right now."

Well, I had one of those moments today. The episode was slightly different than other times in the fact that I immediately thought, "Where in the world did not those thoughts come from? Man, right out of left field. My heart and mind weren't anywhere near those issues." Once I asked myself where they came from an answer in the form of a question occurred. Could they have come from Satan? Was I under attack? Was he trying to influence me at that moment? A definite Screwtape Letters consideration.

I then proceeded to the next logical thought. If I assume, for the sake of argument of course, that is the case then it indicates that I was going down a path the enemy did not like. That means my understanding and the belief I was professing is correct or least in the right direction. Also, if Satan is real, so is God. All this is real (surreal if you like) proof that God exists.

Wow! All of a sudden I am taking comfort from doubts. If they are inflicted by Satan, then they are proof of God and Christ. I found the whole process somewhat exhilarating. Am I off my rocker?