Monday, May 29, 2006

Mental 409

Lately, I've been struggling with vision.  Since turning a vision into a reality is a big part of my job, this was creating quite problem for me.

Then I read this...
You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast,
because he trusts in You.
-Isaiah 26:3
...and no more problem.

I was just feeling the pressure of too many people trying desperately to derail the vision into chaos.  Perspective can truly make all the difference.  Faith helps too.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Dixie Chicks? Seriously?

As is often the case when I have a little downtime, my mind wanders and rambles in fits and starts.  Eventually I fall asleep and if I'm lucky wake up having forgotten the self-inflicted stress survived the night before.  Today was not like that.

In those times, I start to read.  My quiet time is first in the morning and nothing can calm like scripture. Many times the case is that my thoughts aren't immediately quieted, but given some perspective.  Often times it takes a while of walking in the day before something finally strikes home.  Today was a little like that.

Sexless in the city was writing about...well a bunch of things, really.  But in her post Taking the road that's given I found some words remarkably relevant words...
For years these women were the ones I envied, but I’m finally seeing that just because their path is different from mine, it’s not necessarily smoother or better. It’s just different.
Of course, I had to invert the gender, but it sure smacked me senseless how important that little distinct can be.  I'm no stranger to politic, so the phrase "It's just different." is one I've heard and used myself a thousand times.  In this case, I needed only to hear it thrust back on my own thoughts to have the scales drop from my eyes and realize this little attitudinal adjustment was perfectly precise in only the way God can be.

My mental gymnastics had little to do with point this exquisitely eloquent writer was undertaking.  But in His way, it was just what I needed.  I guess sometimes the words of a strangely sexy and sometimes saucy scribe are supremely suitable for screwing my head back on straight.

Thanks Anna.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Obedience Produced

Recently, I bantered with a colleague about compromise.  That particular conversation was about business but it stuck with me long after.  In the context of faith specifically, I don't understand compromise.  For quite some time now I have been what I call a Practical Absolutist.  I believe in Right and Wrong, Good and Evil.  That's the absolute part.  But I reserve the right to switch them as necessary to keep my world view consistent and myself sane.  That's the practical part.  For example, murder is wrong, capital punishment is not.  Eat healthy, except on vacation. Don't burden other people, but lean on friends.  In my own warped way, this is how I resolve paradox.  In the case of faith, I struggle with how I see the majority settle their discord over salvation.

So often we create ways to talk about our faith without obedience, our walk without perfection, our life with compromise.  We seperate our faith and works to such extent so we can expose our faith while downplaying our failure to produce works.  When pushed even in small ways we lean on grace and forgiveness, claiming freedom through our salvation.  Don't get me wrong, my freedom does come from grace.  My salvation is by grace alone! But that is only first part of the truth.

Let me digress a little on why I split this hair so finely.  The gospel of forgiveness is “ bring about the obedience of faith...", Romans 1:5. This epistle has forgiveness as a major theme but the conclusion I feel is often overlooked; “ bring about the obedience of faith...” Romans 16:26.

Faith is not merely an assent, a decision, a recognition. Faith, by its very nature is solely defined by obedience.  Faith can't be something simply talked about (Psalm 50:7-13).  And it should not be merely referred to as a means to classify oneself.

The two major modern evangelical interpretations, dispensationalism and covenant theology both teach that good works accompany genuine faith. In dispensationalism the emphasis is usually upon the work and influence of the Holy Spirit. In covenant theology the emphasis is usually upon the relationship nature of works as a consequence of faith. To my mind, they are both indirectly supportive of this decline from spiritual excellence.

Paul writes twice to the Thessalonians about the “the work of faith” (I Thessalonians 1:3 and 2 Thessalonians 1: 11). Is this not the same as “the obedience of faith” (Romans 1 and 16)?

To my eyes, true faith is not merely accompanied by good works, as if they may or may not be present. True faith is itself the source which produces obedience. If we have true saving faith, it causes us to lead a life of faithfulness. Our life of faithfulness produces obedience because of the essence and nature of what faith is.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Devil in the Details

Don't you hate it when you go to read someone's blog and it starts with how Busy they are? You ask your friend how it's going and of course, they say Busy. It seems everytime someone inquires about me my reply just naturally starts with Busy.

One of my big efforts lately has been training some colleagues. Helping a few diamonds-in-the-rough be a little less rough and a little more diamond. The net result is a better team, a better company, and individuals who are just simply better at their work.

While the effort required to produce something elegant is far greater than that required to produce something only middling, the side-effects are orders of magnitude different. Ask anyone who appreciates any form of art. Constructing the commonplace is easy, uncovering the exceptional requires vastly different aptitude.

Demanding excellence and discipline from undisciplined and mediocre talent necessitates meticulous attention to detail and a willingness to worry over seeming minutia. Which of course, most people find petty and inconsequential. We generally regard people who do agonize over the little things to be over-controlling, fanatical, or dare I say anal-retentive? I see their eyes gloss over in the conversation as they slowly start to write off the relevance of the miniscule point you were trying to make that appeared to them totally tangential to the task they undertook.

When I stop and think about how self-centered it sounds to champion excellence so resolutely, I can't help but wonder where that motivation comes from. I'm sure there are more than a few people who have wondered what makes a freak like me tick. As it usually turns about to be about most of the motivations I manage to maintain with my limited mental capacity, the fulcrum is my faith.
But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.
--2 Corinthians 4:7-9, NIV
It's not possible for me to read this without hearing the words of my inner monologue assuming the voice of a southern preacher pounding each phrase out like a thundering bellow. And I must admit an "Amen" usually squeaks out its way out there at the end.

Faith is why I pursue excellence. Excellence is why I pursue discipline.

They say the devil is in the details and I appreciate the point being made. But in my journey, that's where I witness people most find their Savior and Salvation. If you aren't being persecuted you aren't trying hard enough.