Showing posts with label Work. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Work. Show all posts

Friday, October 29, 2010

One of those nights

Jaimie's car died today.

I walked in circles for half an hour tonight.

No one reads my poems. (I think perhaps no one reads poems anymore, period. Or maybe mine are just bad.)

My job is frustrating.

At times, I feel very lonely.

I'm not sure what this post is about.

God is still good.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Work is Good—Really Good

Today was a hard day at work. I got there at 5:30, which meant waking up at 4:30, and I ran later than I wanted to in both cases. It turned out not to matter, because my reason for getting their early ended in futility: I could not manage to get the software packages relevant to my task to behave properly until after 8 am, by which point my test session was over. Even when I stole someone else's time later in the day, further problems cropped up. I was prevented—largely by factors beyond my control—from accomplishing almost any of the things I wanted to do today.

It could have been an eminently frustrating experience.

In the end, however, I spent more time laughing at the situation than complaining. In this fallen world, that's just how life is sometimes, and we can either laugh at it or be wearied by it. I already had plenty of weariness from getting up so early; laughter seemed even more the wise choice today than normal.

Work is a blessing, even when it causes us frustration. Since I started this job last summer, I have had considerable opportunity to reflect on the ways that it is a blessing, not a curse. The obvious benefit is a paycheck—one large enough to pay down our loans quickly and still give generously without living skimpily ourselves. In the end, though, I have been blessed far more by factors other than money. I have been blessed by having a productive way to spend my days. I have been blessed by learning to work hard even when hard work is not encouraged (and is at times systematically discouraged). I have been blessed by the occasional fun engineering challenges that cross my path. I have been blessed with coworkers I generally like. I have been blessed with coworkers who frustrate me and teach me to grow in patience and faithfulness. I have been blessed with stability, which is far more valuable than any quantity of money in this economy.

Most of all, though, I have been blessed simply to be able to work. While I certainly enjoy days off and look forward to vacations, I know from the month I spent at home under the effects of mono that I have no desire to spend my life in a permanent vacation. Hard as it may be to remember, work itself is good; the frustrations and aggravations and wearisomeness of work now are a consequence of the fall.

Consider: God instituted work before Adam sinned:

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to work it and keep it. And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, "You may surely eat of every tree of the garden, but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."
—Genesis 2:15-17

The toil and frustration we experience in work are a result of Adam's sin (and ours):

And to Adam he said,

   "Because you have listened to the voice of your wife
   and have eaten of the tree
of which I commanded you,
   'You shall not eat of it,'
cursed is the ground because of you;
   in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life;
thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you;
   and you shall eat the plants of the field.
19By the sweat of your face
   you shall eat bread,
till you return to the ground,
   for out of it you were taken;
for you are dust,
   and to dust you shall return."
—Genesis 3:17-19

Work itself is a blessing. It is good, and given the example of Eden, I believe strongly that we will work on the New Earth in our resurrection bodies. As hard as that can be to grasp at times in the travails of our current careers, it is helpful to keep in mind. It helps us to redeem our days at work when we remember that work is a gift, a good thing, a blessing from God. We do not have to like the consequences of sin—I certainly would like my working not to involve thorns and thistles and the sweat of my face (even if the sweat is admittedly more metaphorical for a programmer)—but we do need to work with joy and gratitude, not only for financial provision but for work itself.

Friday, July 2, 2010

This Marvelous Busywork

This has been a good week. I have written a fair amount, spent good time with friends, spend better time with my wife, been productive at work, and learned a lot.

One of the more interesting aspects of this week was work. As you may have noticed, work has been on my mind a great deal recently. On the one hand, I really like working. I enjoy doing good work well, and I like glorifying God through excellence. Programming has the benefit of being interesting at least some of the time; there are good intellectual problems to solve on a semi-regular basis. Alas, recent months have not afforded me much opportunity to do the best parts of programming; since coming on with this job, I have spent most of my time analyzing data and trying to identify the causes of failures. That is good, important work— but it is hardly work that stirs the mind, much less the soul.

That has led to a certain amount of quiet (and sometimes not-so-quiet) discontent. As my mother can attest, from years of homeschooling me, I loathe boredom; the only thing worse is busywork. Being confronted with both on a regular basis, and often starved of social interaction (programming involves solitarily staring at a screen for hours on end) has left me mentally fried. In this I do not think I am particularly unique. Whatever my oddities—and make no mistake, I have many!—the struggles that afflict me are common to everyone.

Each of us wants our life to have purpose and meaning. We all want our days tasks to accomplish something, no matter how small. The particular kind of work that will satisfy each of us varies gloriously; I praise God (not least out of gratitude) that there are people who enjoy electrical work and repairing cars; I am not among them. As the kindly gentleman I spoke with at Borders a month ago pointed out, though: we are all of us needed. What matters is that we take joy in doing our work well and hopefully find vocations where we can exercise our gifts. For him, that is laying floors. For me, right now, it is carefully crafting software. What it will be in the future remains to be seen.

Work is good. God did not create work as a punishment for the Fall; Adam was commissioned to tend the Garden first. Like everything in this world, it has been corrupted by our sin. Ingratitude and complaints obscure the gift God has given us. Our relationships with bosses, subordinates, and coworkers are poisoned by sinful relational patterns. Work itself can become a drudgery, especially when we are set tasks to which we are not suited. Yet still it is a gift, not a curse. However much we may find ourselves toiling with frustration instead of joy, work is a gift.

The questions, for each of us, are whether we will choose to gladly accept that gift and whether we will seek to use it to the glory of God. In each case, if we answer in the affirmative, we will find the work better. It may not be any more pleasant, but even the worst of work, done to the glory of God, is good work.

For me, then, the challenge is to recognize that the tasks I have to do each day are worthy of my best efforts. No matter how they frustrate me, and no matter how pointless they may seem, they are the work that God has set before me. I must remember that I am not merely allowed to work; I am called to work, and to work well. Even busywork can be glorious.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sanctified (Slowly)

It happened again today. I found myself at work, convicted. Apparently, the Holy Spirit means business, and He's going to sanctify me, whether my flesh is interested or not. (That's good, given my flesh's stated disinterest in the things of God.)

I sat at my desk, having more and more enjoyable work than I've had in a long time, and I thought to myself, "I hate this." I was furious. I didn't care for the direction the assignment was going, my brain wasn't working well, I had a headache, and I was mad. Not someone asked me to do something immoral mad, or even someone asked me to do something stupid mad. Just mad.

Just like yesterday, the Holy Spirit gave me a moment's pause, and let the thoughts running through my head echo around for a few seconds. The ridiculousness soon dawned on me. I've been hungry for more and more substantive work for weeks, as my friends and wife can attest. Here I had it. More code changes and additions in a single day than in the previous six months combined. Real programming work, with some actual problem solving to do. Nothing terribly exciting; the problem in question isn't even a problem so much as an opportunity to make things better for the future. Nevertheless, it is far better than data analysis or some of the other ways I have recently had to fill my time.

Yet I was complaining. Never mind Scriptural prohibitions on complaints; never mind the immense blessing it is to have a good, stable job (especially in a down economy); never mind that this job was from the beginning an answer to prayer. It wasn't exactly what I wanted it to be today: so I grumbled in my head.

None of this escaped my lips, of course. I am far too skilled a sinner to let others know about my depravity, at least where I can hide it. For that matter, I hide my sin from myself as much as I can. The longer I can pretend my anger is deserved, my pride warranted, my jealousy justified, the longer I can go without really submitting to God. Today, again, God showed the depths of his grace by showing me my ingratitude and self-absorption.

Paul meant business when he wrote about dealing with sin. He exhorted the early believers to put sinful tendencies to death, and to recognize that their old, carnal ways were dead. They were now alive in Christ; how could they keep on sinning? Today, I think we take sin lightly. We psychologize it into oblivion, rationalize it into nonexistence, and above all trivialize it into meaninglessness. Sin is but the hobbyhorse of an older, less enlightened age; we understand that all our foibles are but the products of wounds done us at some earlier stage.

I am not discounting psychology, and I have seen how I often lash out at others in precisely the areas where I have been hurt the deepest. But the reality is, most of our sin is just sin. No excuses, no justifications, and no way out. It is sin, and we have to put it to death. We must do so in full reliance on the power of God, not trusting to our own devices. We must call out for help, rememering that God who has saved us is the one who will finish the work he has started. He will complete our sanctification and glorify us with him. Our hope is secure.

So, to all of us, the call is press in and get to work. Kill sin—or it will kill you. By the grace of God, we will all of us look more like Him tomorrow (and no doubt he will show us then how much remains to do).

Friday, June 25, 2010

Smile Power and a Shirtless Biker Dude

Two observations from my day:

There is a woman I work with, probably in her mid to late fifties, who is easily the loveliest woman her age I have seen. It's because she smiles so much. Every time you talk to her, no matter how hard her day or week or month is going, she smiles. She faithfully asks how you are doing, and wants to know the answer. She will sympathize if something is wrong, laugh with you at something funny, and rejoice with you when things go well. She radiates joy, and it has left a decades-long imprint on her face. I have no doubt she will still be beautiful when she is 80.

Most of us struggle to hold that joy for a few hours, much less days or weeks or months. This woman, I know from conversation, finds her joy in Christ and in living well. It shows. I find myself both humbled and encouraged by her example. Would we were all so joyful! The more we find our hope, our satisfaction, and our happiness in God, the more we will reflect that same glorious spirit. Perhaps in three more decades, I will have learned to smile that much as well.

Motorcyclists, on the whole, comprise about the same spectrum of intelligence and aptitude for safe driving as other drivers—although perhaps with an emphasis on both extremes. The best motorcyclists are some of the most careful, conscientious drivers on the road. They signal assiduously, move predictably, and give plenty of space. By contrast, the worst motorcyclists are dangerous, unpredictable, and generally a picture of stupidity. And they never wear helmets. In driving 45 miles a day, I have of course seen plenty of motorcyclists.

Today, however, the stupidity topped the charts. A man rode his cruiser down the road, wearing nothing but his shorts, a pair of sandals, and his sunglasses. (His overly large gut made the picture even less attractive than you could imagine.) I imagine the feeling is fairly exhilarating. Of course, the feelings caused by an accident would be far more powerful than that brief thrill. Would we were none of us so foolish—but I think, in many ways, we often are, flirting with sin as we do, baring our chest to out of misplaced pride in our own strength.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Making

I find more and more that I care deeply bout accomplishing meaningful objectives each day. I regularly find myself frustrated at work when my tasks seem unimportant or wasteful. I especially struggle when I have little to do. I am made to work.

Over the last 9 months, I have discovered that I love web design. I enjoy putting together attractive web sites, and I enjoy the challenge of making them work properly however one is viewing them. (Admittedly, my tangles with Internet Explorer have been less than pleasant.) At first I was designing Pillar, then redesigning this blog, then helping redesign Jaimie’s blog, then redesigning Pillar, then helping Stephen Carradini tweak the design for Gospelized, and finally doing the customizations for 52 Verses. Now that I have no such projects in view ahead of me, I feel a bit adrift.

In the past year, I have written a grand total of one piece of music, and that one not very long (though good, I think). Yesterday, I began work on a piece of clarinet and something—either piano or cello, depending on what the clarinetist can find in short order. It is refreshing; I somehow manage to forget how thoroughly entwined my soul and music are.

Yesterday, Jaimie began drawing in her sketch book—something she often used to do, but has but once or twice since we have been dating. She lost herself, apparently, in the strokes of her pencil. I know the feeling; it is how I feel when I wrote poetry, or let notes spill across (electronic) pages, or tweak a website’s design to perfection.

We are artists, all of us. Every one of us bears the imprint of our creator. I drive to work early enough to see the sunrise at one state or another—a glorious painting beyond the ability of my words to capture, no matter how I try. Our hearts are stirred by stories, moved by songs, stunned by the sweep of a cathedral. They leap at the sight of the Grand Canyon, ache to dance and shout and somehow take all the world in from the top of the Rockies, and crash in rhythm with the waves at ocean’s edge.

Not every man can be a painter, but all of us live to make something new. Every mechanic and every engineer, every plumber and yes, every person flipping burgers, is still making. Quibble if you will at their worth; admit, perhaps, that modernity so often fails to understand the point of beauty—but never deny that every man is a maker at heart. We each of us have a glimpse of God to offer to the world. Not, as so many have claimed, because we are all God, but because we were made to be like him: little mirrors that each one show a part of who he is.

I was made to make. So I sit and write posts and poetry. I spend hours on blog headers and pour my soul into new compositions. I work hard at work because I was made to make things well. Even when the things created are but lines of code that accomplish some end, I made them well. Praise God.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How Mono is like Sin, and other ramblings

It's been a month since I last blogged here. I've had mono, and one of the consequences has been an inability to focus for long periods of time. For obvious reasons, that puts a bit of a damper on my blogging ability. Seeing as I have a pretty solid commitment elsewhere on a regular basis, the result has been my absence from this blog. (I'd have been more worried if I had more regular readers!)

Before anyone asks, I haven't a clue how I got the silly disease. The only woman I've ever kissed, my beautiful and amazing wife Jaimie, has never had mono, and I don't share drinks with people. Mysterious infections are even lamer than unmysterious infections.

it's in times like this that I'm particularly grateful for a job like the one God provided. I'm blessed by being able to actually take the doctor's orders and stay home and rest. Mono is what's often called a nuisance disease: you don't feel terrible, and in fact you're often relatively functional. Bad spells of headaches, dizziness, and extreme fatigue are offset by the relatively regular times in between. The trick is, you won't get better unless you rest... a lot. So, when the doctor prescribed bedrest, I counted myself blessed to have a job with good short-term disability benefits, so that I can stay home and rest.

Being unable to concentrate for long periods of time has been strange. Normally, when I'm at home sick, I do a lot of reading. I've done comparatively little in the last two weeks, though, because I've simply been unable to drive my mind through any substantive books. I've managed a little Star Wars, a little Asimov, and a very little bit of a neat anthology I picked up recently, Leland Ryken's The Christian Imagination. It's a good one, but as is often the case with anthologies, it doesn't have a solid line of thought through; it's organized by theme, so it gets a little repetitive. Not really the best recipe for overcoming mental stamina problems...

As I'm thinking about mono, I realize that in a lot of ways, its day to day effects are an excellent picture of how sin works in the life of a Christian. In some ways, you barely notice its effects, especially once you get used to them. But the effects are always there, dragging you down, preventing you from doing what you truly want to do. I can't play Ultimate, write blog posts easily, read long, difficult books, or even go to work. Similarly, sin keeps me from loving my wife as well as I want, from reaching out to neighbors or peers with the gospel effectively, or serving selflessly in the church. It attacks in subtle ways that, save for the rare flareups, are hardly noticeable. But, like mono, it simply will not go away unless you get serious about dealing with it. I'll paraphrase John Owen: if you're not attacking mono, it's attacking you, and the same thing goes for sin.

Hopefully I'll be back to normal soon, posting here at least once a week and going to work and even, a few weeks later, playing some Ultimate. In the meantime, if you want blog posts from me, head over to Pillar on the Rock, if you want Ultimate somebody's playing it near you, and if you want work, well, there's always some to be done (though I'll definitely pray for you if you're out of work in the current recession).

Come back next time, when I'll get really crazy and compare sin to some sort of carnivorous plant! (No promises.)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A man like David

I'm back, and life is at last settling down into something of a normal routine again. I'm posting twice a week for Pillar on the Rock, and trust me when I say that writing two posts a week is a lot more manageable than doing the web design. I was spending 10-20 hours a week working out kinks on the site design back when PJ and I were getting it ready to deploy. The four or five hours a week I spend writing, editing my own and PJ's posts (he edits mine), and posting links to them on Twitter and Facebook seem pretty trivial in comparison. Now the holidays are over, I'm back at work, and our personal lives have settled down a bit, at least for now.

So here I am, in the few minutes I have before heading off for worship practice, tapping away at my computer on my own blog. A shock, I'm sure, to my many (ahem, not-so-many) readers.

It is, as ever, difficult to express just how much change a year brings. Certainly this year brought more than most—transitions out of college and into marriage and the working world being chief among them—but every year has its share of challenges, victories, and changes. I spent less time writing poetry and music this year than in any year since high school, and I missed both. I missed spending long hours late at night tapping away at my blog, too, in some ways. Yet I would not trade my life now for the one I had before in any way. Though I sometimes wish for more hours to read and write and compose instead of programming, I count myself the most blessed of men for the wife God has given me and the life He daily provides. Besides, programming is a good job.

My resolutions this year are few and simple: diligently study the word of God, by His grace kick a couple of troublesome sin habits in the face until they truly yield, and read a lot of good books. My goals are a bit broader: they include studying Greek at least once a week and composing equally often. My desires, from playing guitar to ranking up in Halo online, well... we'll see.

This I know: God will do mighty things this year, even if I can't see them. I'm going to content myself with learning, as best I can, to be a man like David. Early in his life, a man said of him: "[He] is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the LORD is with him" (1 Samuel 16:18). That seems a worthy goal to me.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

5 100ish-word thoughts, 10/28/09

Composing Training Trials while Reading and Writing

(1) I'm going to make this one a habit if I can, too. It's fun, and it's a good writer's challenge: say meaningful things, briefly. It's especially a good challenge for me, as I'm sure my friends agree! I will write 5 thoughts, none of which will be longer than 100 words (they might be a bit shorter!). Topics will range from theology to humor to current events, and probably back again. Each week will include a wide range of topics. Short, easy, good practice, and hopefully fun reading! Alas, I must move on, as I'm at 99 words already...

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(2) As I, and I'm sure many others, have observed before: it's not the big, short trials that are the hardest. (They can be plenty hard, but they're not the worst.) The most difficult trials to endure are the ones that simply keep going. I noted several years ago that James' famous exhortation to "count it all joy" continues by promising that the testing of our faith produces steadfastness. Implication: we're going to be facing the trial for quite some time. We'd better start learning to count it all joy: we'll be doing it a lot!

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(3) Training can be one of the dullest and most tedious affairs I've ever experienced. Especially training for software tools. Elegant and powerful this tool may be, but the book would be powerful only as an implement of pain, and never elegant. My days this week have been long and dreary. Three things help, in ascending order: (1) the instructor has a superb British accent; (2) I know that my wife is waiting for me at home; (3) I get to have a very short work day on Friday. Thus do I endure my pain. Longsuffering, indeed!

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(4) The joy of reading a new book is difficult to overstate. That being said, I'm pretty sure the joy I have in reading a new The Wheel of Time novel is quite impossible to overstate. I love the characters, I love the world, and I love the story. I'm reminded, every time I sit down to read this fantasy epic (and epic it is) of the power of words to stir the imagination, and how powerful and important the imagination is. Reading good novels is as good for us as reading good nonfiction, the Bible aside.

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(5) Composing is a strange pursuit. Not that I've done much of it recently, but I've missed it, and I've thought about it quite a bit. I do not quite understand the mechanism by which people can pull music seemingly out of nowhere, despite having experienced it myself many times. It is, to me at least, one of the deepest proofs of God's existence: we create because He does. (I'd say it's one of the quietest proofs, but that's not quite right, and it'd be a bit paradoxical to claim music as a quiet proof, don't you think?)

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God bless, and good night!


Sunday, September 13, 2009

Mundane divinity

I was thinking yesterday, as I drove home from spending the evening with some friends, on how easily we undervalue the mundane. I run in, and have run in, a lot of very "intentional" Christian circles. We all place a strong emphasis on intentionally seeking out and engaging with others for the gospel. We tend to think in terms of living with eternity in mind. We strive to use our time in spiritually significant ways. That's a good thing, on the whole. There is certainly no lack of laziness and apathy in the visible church in America, right now, so intentionality can be a healthy counter to it.

On the other hand, I spent most of last week working, both at work and at home. I spent a good deal of time investing in my relationship with my wife, and a little with church friends. On the whole, however, I don't think the week qualified for "spiritually significant investments," at least from the outside looking in. On Saturday alone, I spent nearly 11 hours working on a blog design template for a project a friend and I are looking to launch sometime in the next month or so. The rest of the week looked similar. As you can imagine, there wasn't much conversation there. Neither did work afford many opportunities for deep discussions this week.

In short, my days were thoroughly mundane.

So, riding home, I was thinking about how I spent my time. I could easily make an argument about how the project I was working on was directed at a good spiritual goal. That's true, and it's an argument that holds water, as far as I'm concerned. But what about the time that I spend that isn't on that project? What about the time I spend writing code at work? What about all the hours I sunk into physics homework during the four years I spent in college? Could I have made a bigger difference in people's lives with an easier major? Could I have at least had more time to spend with people with an easier major, and could I now without this project? The answer to both of those last two questions is almost certainly yes, in some sense.

All of that begins to miss the point, however. We are called to glorify God in all of our lives. There is no separation in the minds of Biblical authors between the spiritual and the mundane, no Platonic or gnostic schism between the world of the divine and our own. There is just as strong a call to honor God in our daily activities as in our ministry activities. We are certainly called to minister to those around us. The need for clear proclamation of the gospel could hardly be clearer and could not be deeper. Churches have many holes in ministry that could be filled.

Yet that is certainly no different than it was at any time in the past two millennia of Christian history, or indeed since the beginning of time. Nor is God's sovereignty lacking, nor His ability to communicate to us through Scripture.

Three points that bear consideration as we think about what to do here:
  1. Work was instituted before the fall. Adam was set to tend the Garden of Eden before the serpent ever tempted Eve.

  2. Nearly all believers in God throughout all of history have been ordinary working folk. Only a very small percentage have been called to vocational ministry.

  3. Jesus spend over a decade of his life working as a carpenter in a little village in the backwaters of a small Roman province. I've no doubt there were "spiritual" things in that time, but the Son of God did no public ministry until His late twenties or early thirties.

My conclusion? —that perhaps God does not make the distinction that we tend to between mundane and spiritual activities. He calls us to excellence in all things, whether working for a paycheck, serving those in need, or discipling a younger believer. All of these have value before Him. I do not think that it is of no eternal consequence to provide for my wife, do good work for my company, and demonstrate character and integrity in my work. The consequences are different than for leading a Bible study, certainly, and we cannot let the mundane overwhelm the spiritual. Neither, however, can we cause our valuing the spiritual diminish our joy in and valuing of the everyday. It is spiritually significant to do work well, to study well, to fold laundry well, to do whatever it is that God is calling you to in this moment well.

We are not called to all do the same one thing well. Rather, we are called to do whatever one thing God has set before us well.