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Recommended for your Library

    Ethics: The Heart of Leadership

    Edited by Joanne Ciulla. An important collection of essays by philosophers, leadership and management thinkers considering the role of ethics in leadership

    Servant Leadership: A Journey into the Nature of Legitimate Power and Greatness

    By Robert K. Greenleaf, Larry C. Spears, Stephen R. Covey. Servant and leader--can these two roles be fused in one real person in all levels of status and calling?

    Warranted Christian Belief

    By Alvin Plantinga. Third in a trilogy of works on the issue of warrant - the basis of the rationality of Christian beliefs written by arguably the most important philosopher of religion alive today

    Renovation of the Heart

    By Dallas Willard. A philosopher and quintessential Christian teacher relates and reflects on what it means to put on the character of Christ.

    Foreign Bodies

    By Hwee Hwee Tan. An impressive first novel by young new author from Singapore acclaimed as an up and coming Pulitzer Prize winner

    Mammon Inc.

    By Hwee-Hwee Tan. Second novel by this very important young new author from Singapore applauded the world over, including The Times in London and the New York Times

    Three Philosophies of Life

    By Peter Kreeft. Three life philosophies presented through the works of three of Scriptures most beautiful poetry books, Job, Ecclesiastes and Songs of Solomon

    Horrendous Evil and the Goodness of God

    By Marilyn McCord-Adams. A seminal response to the age-old problem of evil which attempts to take seriously the theological ramifications of the character of God


    By Malcolm Gladwell. Blink is about the first two seconds of looking--the decisive glance that knows in an instant.

    Smart Mobs

    By Howard Rheingold. A social commentary about how "sophisticated mobile Internet access is allowing people who don't know each other to act in concert".


    By Albert-Laszlo Barabasi. An engaging treatise about the fundamentals of interconnectedness and complexity that underlies neurology, epidemiology, Internet traffic, and many other fields.

    The Peaceable Kingdom

    By Stanley Hauerwas. A clear explication of a Christian ethic based upon the meaning of the gospel, highlighting virtues and character, and narrative as a mode of ethical reflection.

    The Goldsworthy Trilogy: Gospel & Kingdom, Gospel & Wisdom, Gospel & Revelation

    By Graeme Goldsworthy. A collection of masterful works expositing on the centrality of the Scriptures: the gospel of Jesus Christ.

    Grace and Law: St. Paul, Kant, and the Hebrew Prophets

    By Heinz Cassirer. A Kantian scholar looks at the Old Testament Law, and Paul's understanding of it, concluding that Kant's delimma is answered by the gospel of grace.

The Un-Right Christians

Progressive Christian Blogger Network

Church Directory of Evangelical Blogs

Sunday, February 27, 2005

BOMS #65 right on time

The Best of Me Symphony #65" is up at Gary Cruse's The Owner's Manual, and as usual, Gary has done a fantastic job. The post itself is a treat.

This time around the guest conductor is John Updike. Go enjoy, and from there you can also get to a great collection of posts from various contributors.

My submission this time around is Should a young lady have to go to a public men's restroom?, a post that attracted quite a raucous response from different readers. Go see for yourself.
...continue reading...BOMS #65 right on time

Rediscovering "A new life emerging"

I stumbled upon this blog quite a while back, and placed a "BlogIt" reminder to re-visit, read, reflect and response.

It has been a while now, and I have not yet done anything to it. In fact, I promptly forgot about going back and checking out the site. In combing through all my draft posts today, I re-discovered the site, and once again resonated with much of what this 41-year old happily married sushi lover business preson who tries to be an authentic representative of his Savior , says (it helps that he and I share many of the same attributes).

This is one site I would like to visit and re-visit. What he has to say about life and faith is illuminating, insightful and instructive. Perhaps you will find him to be of interest to you too.
...continue reading...Rediscovering "A new life emerging"

Friday, February 25, 2005

Dawn on the gay debate

The lady priest with the kitten heels has a few choice words to say about the church's obsession with "same-sex genital acts" today, and I enjoyed reading her well-balanced and obviously well-controlled discourse on the gay debate within the different Christian enclaves.

I agree with her that the emphasis of the Church and its heart and mission ought to be "to feed the hungry, tend the sick, preach the gospel, love one another." I share her view that the tone of much of the debate within the church is off the mark by quite a fair margin and I agree that the issue is one that is very important as well.

I also enjoyed reading the article she referred to in no such thing as a straight bishop which strikes me as a much more sophisticated articulation of something I wrote a while back. (My diatribe is here and the quote I am referring to is further down in the post, but you will have to read the entire piece to find it within its context). In his post, the hopeful amphibian suggests that "it is time for all Christians to cease to refer to themselves as 'straight'" because
in light of the dominant discourse of our culture and the history of the use of that term, carries with it the implication that 'I am normal' (whereas others are not), 'I am sorted' (whereas others are not), 'I have got it right'.

And I'm not, no I'm not, and I haven't.

I am not straight. Nor, I would suggest, is any Christian I know.

My sexuality has a brokenness to it, a part of that going back to childhood, a lot of that discovered or accumulated along the way..
Very powerful and strong words indeed. And, they do ring true. I was trying to express the same ideas when I tried to start a conversation on the concept of illicit sex, but found neither the right words nor the participants to engage in it (except for DJ Chuang, who suggested a better way to frame the question).

I suspect that few Christians ventured to engage me in conversation at the time might be because (apart from the fact that my blog is not well frequented by those who do engage in conversations) most think it is an open-and-shut case, when it most definitely is not.

My point is, rather than think that only gays (and sexual deviants) have it all wrong, that their sexuality is all sinful and broken, we need to look at ourselves and see that all of us are wrong and sexually broken.

If we were to accept, honor and respect each other in spite of such brokenness, we need to extend the same grace to them as well. We need to also stop supposing that sexual sins are the most grievous.

It appears to me that Jesus didn't, and neither did any of the New Testament writers. Instead, it appears that not loving our brothers or sisters, not extending the mercy that we so gladly receive for ourselves to our neighbors, and not recognizing our own sinfulness while condemning that of our fellow creatures, are at least more grievous than sexual sins of any form.

...continue reading...Dawn on the gay debate

Thursday, February 24, 2005

Presenting... the ... in the outer... Blog Interview #1

The first victimplayer for the the outer... round of the Blog interviews is Messy Christian. Here are the questions for her:

(1) Describe one key lesson you have learned in Authentic Christianity.
(2) How do you think Christianity in Malaysia is different to Christianity as you have observed in, let's say, the United States?
(3) How is Christianity in the US and other Western countries affecting the expression of the Christian faith in your country?
(4) What do you think is the key to a healthy church life?
(5) Tell us something you have always wanted to rant about, but haven't yet done so in your blog!

Over to you Messy Christian. Let's hear your answers!

For others, if you would like to play in this interview game, please see this post and leave a comment there.
...continue reading...Presenting... the ... in the outer... Blog Interview #1


The Blog-interviews are taking place throughout Blogosphere. I first came across it at The Bilbe Archive when Rey was interviewed by Rebecca of Rebecca Writes. I decided to join in and invited Rey to interview me.

Here are the questions and answers:

1. Which verse(s) stand out as giving you personally the most comfort?

Many verses in the Bible offer comfort to me at different times in my spiritual walk. The ones that offer me the most comfort currently are those that reaffirms to me that the Creator of the Universe cares for us (me!) and promises never to leave or forsake us (me!). Imagine! Even the Lord Jesus in His experience on earth was not spared this devastating experience of being forsaken! Yet, He who was tempted and who has suffered in every way as we are, gives us this precious promise to be with us no matter what, no matter where!

Reading the Gospel stories, I draw the most comfort from the simple and short verse found in John 11, "Jesus wept." (verse 35). I have already posted on this passage, so I will only say here that what this verse tells me is that I have a Savior who is intimately involved with my life circumstances and although He knows all things, especially the end (and the final resolution of all things), He is involved in our situation right now, enough to be moved with compassion and to weep alongside us.

This is indeed amazing grace.

2. Are you a morning person or a night owl?

Hah! Definitely a night owl! There are times when I have trained myself to get up in the morning, and even to be pumped up and motivated in the morning because of work situations. When I was managing a team of sales and customer service people, we used to have breakfast meetings every Monday at 7:30 a.m. (Who came up with such a crazy idea??), but I get really hyper, and excited when everyone has turned in at night, and I am alone in my own study, with my books, my computer, and my thoughts...

3. What’s the best thing about being a Dad?

The best thing is to be loved back! When my kids come to me and give me a hug, or when they tell me how their day has gone, and simply hanging out with my kids and chatting with them. Yesterday, my youngest came home from school and we took Elvis, our precocious little Shitzu for a walk and she gave me a blow-by-blow account of her day at school, and I felt on top of the world. I felt so privileged to be able to spend that time with her and decided that the recent laying off had some positives to it!

4. What’s the best fictional book you’ve ever read? >

That has to be Mammon, Inc. by Hwee Hwee Tan. I haven't read much fiction in a while, but when about two years ago I found Tan's Foreign Bodies and read it in over three evenings, and decided to get her second novel, which at the time was only available via Amazon UK site. When I received it, I read it in a day and a half!

Tan weaves a story of a young Christian graduate with a promising future in front of her having to face the difficult decision of what she ought to be doing after college. It is a Gen-X story par excellence, and I promise you once you get hit with the opening sentence you will not want to put it down.

Because the protagonist is a young woman from Singapore, but the setting of the book crosses continents, from the dusty halls of Oxford, to the shining lights of Manhattan, back to the hustle-bustle of Orchard Road, Singapore, you will find the craft of an artist as Tan deftly intermingles cross-cultural themes with veiled references to Star Wars to portray some very universal themes about life, decisions and consequences. In the midst of it all, Tan cleverly questions cultural beliefs and norms with wit and humor as she draws you into the challenges of a twenty-something up-and-comer in the world struggling between spiritual values and monetary success. Well, what more can I say? Go read it yourself!

5. Who are what are the Freo Dockers?

Ah, the Fremantle Dockers. The next great team of the Australian Football League. I used to attend every home game, come rain or shine, but alas, now that I am so far away, I have to make do with the internet, and I still watch replays of some of the classic games on tape.

The Freo Dockers as they are also known is one of the new expansion teams in the AFL and they are touted as one of the young teams with loads of talent but has yet tasted the glory of a Premiership (the championship). I have a feeling in my bones though that it will be Real Soon Now.

>Note: If you wish to play the Blog Interview Game, leave me a comment on this post, and I will visit your blog and then post you five questions here. You will then need to go back to your blog, and post your answers to it.

...continue reading...Blog-Interview

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

What is the real purpose of prayer?

Today, Parableman's reflection on Belief Seeking Understanding's pondering whether or not retroactive prayer is well formed caught my attention. In his post, Jeremy walks very ably through the philosophical underpinnings of prayer, God's actions and His timelessness. The issue about which both Jeremy and Douglas are wondering is the wisdom of praying about events that have already happened.

Douglas used the following illustration to highlight the conundrum:
Suppose you go to the doctor, and the doctor says "Well, based on everything I know at this point, you either have x or y. X is somewhat of an inconvenience, but y is significantly more serious." Is it foolish to pray "Please God, let it be x and not y?" If y is the consequence of a lifetime of choices, isn't praying such a prayer functionally equivalent to asking God to zap you into some alternate parallel universe where you had x, from another one where you had y?
Both Jeremy and Douglas acknowledges God's timelessness, and Jeremy explicates how this important concept does not preclude us from praying for past events on the grounds that "we don't know [the outcome] when praying..." Further, Jeremy poses the following questions about prayer and God's answers to it
Is it possible for my prayer to be answered positively given that the negative answer is true? No. Is it possible for my prayer to be answered ignoring any information about whether the positive answer happened already? Yes. The question is whether it's proper to ignore information about the past if you don't know it. Normally, we assume the past is irrevocable and thus don't try to do something that might change it, simply because we can't. But what if our prayer can genuinely lead to a past decision on God's part? Then it seems it is indeed proper to ignore that there might be facts about the past for the same reason it's proper to avoid facts about the future. What makes it come out the way it did/will hasn't happened yet.
The underlying assumption from which both Jeremy and Douglas work is that prayer really does cause God to respond and act to change things. This is a common understanding of most people. In fact, "Prayer changes things" appear to be a slogan that is quite commonplace. However, while I don't doubt the truth of the statement, I wonder if this kind of thinking about prayer distorts its real purpose and effectiveness, and is in fact a misunderstanding of the practice of prayer. And, if misunderstanding, then, it is detrimental to our spiritual formation.

Sometime ago, I wondered about the theological implications behind our practice of prayer and why we assume that God's answers to our prayers are in any one of three ways: "Yes," "No," and "Wait" and then, only count those times when our prayers have been answered affirmatively as real answers. We say "Praise God! He answered our prayers!" but only do so when we actually see positive answers to our prayers.

This problem is closely related to the question I recently asked myself when reflecting on--and asking God to change--the circumstances in which I found myself. I wondered if it was proper for me to ask God to remove me from the difficult situation or to ask God to remove the situation from me, and then I contemplated if the wiser, if not proper, prayer was to invite God into my situation.

Perhaps rather than think that the goal of prayer is about changing things or circumstances, we ought to think about prayer as a means to changing people. In fact, prayer is more about changing the person doing the praying, than about bringing changes to world events. I am not denying that God does act to change things in response to the prayers of His people, but my contention is that this is not the Biblical emphasis of prayer.

When we understand prayer as a discipline in which we engage God in our lives and engage in His life, as a means of intimacy with God, then it doesn't really matter if the things we pray about are in the past, or in the future. For then, we would be praying not for or against the occurrence of an event, but rather we would be praying for our responses to events.

While this understanding may not preclude us from wondering about whether or not to pray for things that may have passed, it does help us to focus our prayer on our responses to whatever comes, not in a fatalistic manner of "whatever will be, will be" (which was Jeremy's worry), but more in the manner of asking God for wisdom and faith to respond courageously, whatever the outcome.

So, do we ever pray for some things to happen rather than other? In the Bible, there are specific passages where this seem to be the case. Jesus' prayer in the garden, "Let this cup pass from me" seems to be an example, yet its emphasis might be more in the "nevertheless let your will, not mine be done." At another time, He taught his disciples to pray that God give us our daily bread and deliver us from evil, and yet, it appears that the prayer is more about our interaction with God than about asking God specifically for different things. Yet further, He teaches his disciples to ask that the Lord of the Harvest send workers to the ripened fields, but even so, this prayer can be seen as a prayer of entering into the heart of God, than of asking God to change certain events.

It would be an interesting exercise to study all the passages of prayer in the Bible (or even the major ones). My suspicion is that there is more emphasis about changing people's hearts (specifically changing the hearts of those doing the praying), and more about inviting God into our circumstances, and entering into God's heart--his work and mission--than about asking God to change things, in a vendor machine-like manner. Perhaps, asking God to change things or praying for things to change is a first step in learning about prayer, and about our walk with God, but as we progress in this relationship, we need to see prayer as more about engaging God in our life and engaging in God's life in the context of an intimacy that is our relationship with our Savior and Lord.

...continue reading...What is the real purpose of prayer?

Is Blogging an addiction?

So, here I am. I haven't yet done my taxes. I haven't yet balanced my checkbook, and dang it, I haven't looked at and to check out today's latest postings on new open positions. Given the events of the past week, that is so critical to me!

And yet, I have spent my first hour at the computer blogging, reading blogs, answering blog emails and so on... so, what do you think, do I need to go to Bloggoholics Anonymous? One thing for sure, I haven't been checking out BlogExplosion, BlogClicker or BlogCrowd. Now, that was an addiction, for sure. I am glad I have that obsession for traffic under control! Now, where was I...?
...continue reading...Is Blogging an addiction?

Hey, it's Carnival time!

Christian Carnival is on! After the uncertainty of the handover teething problems of last week, this week's carnival is working like a well-oiled machine, attesting to the administration gifts of the current coordinator, Dory of Wittenberg Gate. This week's Carnival is being hosted at Wallo World. I posted up my meditation on blessings and curses, which is a culmination of a series of posts where I bared my soul due to the events of the past few weeks. I am still feeling raw from being fired from my job, and still questioning the wisdom of standing up to a crazy boss, rather than taking it all in. But now it is in the past, and I have to look towards the future.

Perhaps I can find wisdom in the posting from other Christian Carnivaliers, such as, Ray Pritchard whose post, "Does this man has a future", resonates with me, as I struggle with the misconception that failure in business and financial matters equate to bad testimony to the Lord who gives success to His people, a kind of distortion of the wealth and health gospel.

Anyway, there are many good posts up at the Carnival, from theological ponderings to thoughts about Teri Schiavo. Incidentally, Wittenberg Gate has been hosting the Bloggers Best for Teri Schiavo. You can find part one here. When I first learned of this project, I thought my next posting on the series on the Commandments is ideal for this since I have just done the fifth commandment and should be ready to tackle the sixth, but I ran out of steam and creative juices this week, mainly because I have been emotionally drained by the past week's events. Not sure when my next post on the Commandments series will take be up. It will be up when it is I suppose. That's the way it goes with blogging, you know?

By the way, if you are interested in participating in future Christian Carnivals, please go here for instructions. In the meantime enjoy "this week's fare at Wallo World!

...continue reading...Hey, it's Carnival time!

Monday, February 21, 2005

Don't Know How He Does It

Gary Cruse from The Owners Manual has once again put together the Best of Me Symphony, creatively interweaving showcases of posts, images, and snippets from the "guest conductor" of the week, Jack Handey of Deep Thoughts fame.

Who? You ask.

Don't worry, I didn't know him before either. He's supposedly a funny person, and Deep Thoughts is reputedly famous as well.

Well, get over there and find out for yourself and treat yourself to some masterpieces. Among this week's rendering is my own submission, which is part of my Commandments series, "Don't Misues God's Name."
...continue reading...Don't Know How He Does It

Sunday, February 20, 2005

Memories Overcoming Emotions

Psalm 42:6:
my God.

My soul is downcast within me;

therefore I will remember you

from the land of the Jordan,

the heights of Hermon-from Mount Mizar.
Actually, I woke up this morning feeling rather rested, which is surprising as I hardly slept at all last night. My current situation stem from recent events, mostly at work (you can read it here and here), and precipitated by my being fired, or as a friend so aptly puts it, released from an intolerable situation.

Because of many different reasons, I must find another position pretty soon, and I mean, really pretty soon.

Over the past couple of days, while outwardly seeming to be evenly keeled, I can't help but feel this gloomy downcast spirit coming over me. Yet, this morning, while physically tired, I feel uplifted that God is an incredible God, mostly because I deliberately recall what He has done, and what I know about Him and have experienced about the life of faith. I may not feel it, I may feel fear and trepidation, but I choose to recall His grace, His power and His care and provision for me and my family.

Many times, our current situation, physically, emotionally or spiritually may be gloomy, but we can use the power of our memories to recall how faithful and awesome our God is. I can't wait to go to church and worship with the rest of the congregation. I may be feeling vulnerable right now, but I know God has got me in His everlasting arms.

Psalm 42: 3-4:
My tears have been my food

day and night,

while men say to me all day long,

"Where is your God?"

4 These things I remember

as I pour out my soul:

how I used to go with the multitude,

leading the procession to the house of God,

with shouts of joy and thanksgiving

among the festive throng.

...continue reading...Memories Overcoming Emotions

Sleepless in Limbo

As you can see, I am still not asleep. Insomnia is a symptom of depression. Both of course can also be a sign of doubt, faithlessness and fear. I embrace them all. I admit I am really afraid of the what the future holds or not hold.

On the one hand, I chide myself, "O Soul, why are you downcast?"

On the other hand, I confess, "...and I shall yet praise Him, My Savior and My God!"

But, I just cannot help but feel the depression slipping in. Steathily but surely.

But before I sink too deeply into a debilitating despair, I want to confess my faith and trust in God, that He will lead and guide me in helping me find a company that will allow me to flourish and use the over twenty years of experience I have had in management, sales, marketing, business processes, and information technology, especially in customer relationship management, database marketing and sales force automation.

For reasons that I do not wish to disclose in this public forum, I must find a position quickly or there will be dire consequences too difficult to explain or contemplate.

I would like to spend a few moments thinking about the ideal company and the ideal position. The ideal company is one that places high values on ethics, individual performance as well as encourages collaborative teamwork. The ideal position will allow me to exploit the combination of my acute "technology-savvy-ness"and strong business acumen, as well as my passionate communication style with my strengths in customer facing situations.

Please pray with me, not so much that I get a position, any position, but that I sense in a deep way, the presence of God in my search for the next step.

I ask God for courage, for wisdom, for a clarity of purpose and for direction in where He is going to lead me and my family. Pray for growth, for transformation and for each of my children to learn afresh what it means to trust God. Pray that this lesson will remain with us and that we will be so transformed that we will not forget. Most of all, pray for opportunities for each member of my family to serve God and be channels of blessings. Pray especially for my daughter that she will return to her faith in God.

...continue reading...Sleepless in Limbo

Saturday, February 19, 2005

Fighting those errant voices heard in my head

You're quite useless, aren't you?
On Christ my Solid Rock I stand.
Two layoffs in three years. Can't hold down a job? A Jonah, perhaps?
All other ground is sinking sand.
What a loser! Can't hold down a job. Can't endure suffering. Can't provide for your family. Can't do anything right!
When darkness seems to hide His face,
I rest on His unchanging grace.
Hopeless! What can you do now? Where can you go? How are you going to pay the bills? How are you going to provide for your family? Didn't you know they need you to at least bring in the paycheck? You are quite an idiot aren't you?
When all around my soul gives way,
He then is all my Hope and Stay.
First, a doormat. Next, a deadbeat. Forever, a bum.
My hope is built on nothing less
Than Jesus’ blood and righteousness.
I dare not trust the sweetest frame,
But wholly trust in Jesus’ Name.

On Christ the solid Rock I stand,
All other ground is sinking sand;
All other ground is sinking sand.
...continue reading...Fighting those errant voices heard in my head

Of blessings and curses

Recently I recounted some of the things that my now former boss did in the past few weeks and months which particularly irked me. She has always been on a rampage in the office against us her underlings. One of the worst things she did, that perhaps started my downhill slide, was this...

From about August last year, I began to follow-up on an old client of mine who had just moved to a new company. I kept in touch with her and got her interested in what we could do for her company. By November, I had the opportunity to make presentations to her new company, but since this opportunity had the potential of being quite a large one, I spent quite a great deal of time on it, and because the opportunity was in NorCal, I had to fly a couple of times to the Bay Area.

My boss at the time was chiding me for spending too much time on one single opportunity and also spending too much money on it. She kept warning me, "What if?"

"What if we don't get the deal? What if they went somewhere else?"

Just imagine you were a basketball player and you had the ball on the court - and the coach kept yelling at you from the side line, "What if you don't make the basket? What if they triple-team you?"

Throughout the time, Dragon Lady (aka my former boss) was not supportive of anything I did for this account. She reluctantly gave me permission, and only at the last minute, to fly out to do the presentations. Just imagine, you have to confirm with the client for a meeting on the Wednesday and you did not know if you were able to fly out until 2 pm on the Monday. Then too, you had to make all your travel arrangements, including charge the air flights on your own credit card and then later you get to be told off for not getting good flights and having to spend nearly half a day away for an early morning business meeting.

By December it seemed clear that all my efforts were coming to fruition. It seemed the client was now ready to consider our offer seriously. Guess what? Dragon Lady became all interested in the deal now. The deal is going to be the largest single deal this small consulting company had ever made.

It would be over half a million dollars, with in excess of three hundred thousand dollars in the first phase. Dragon lady decided that she was going to take over account and I was to play only a supporting role. Then in the past few weeks, she decided that since I was making mistakes (which was not at all true, but she either seriously thought it or deviously used it as an excuse), she would take over the account completely. By then, she doesn't need any more assistance from me, and the deal is by all intents and purposes "in the bag."

Since the new compensation plan that she put together this year for the sales team is to have commission calculated and paid on a quarterly basis, she effectively wrestled the commissions from me. A rule of the compensation plan is that an employee must be currently employed with the company to receive commissions. That means, by letting me go, she has effectively robbed me of my commissions as well, not just for this deal but for all the other sales I had achieved the past couple of months.

It hurts so much as I think of all these things. But I am thinking about all these things in relation to my reflection on the passage of Scripture (Rom 12: 17-21) where Paul says:
Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Some thoughts ran through my mind as I read this passage. One is, did I do the wrong thing by confronting Dragon Lady? Did I return evil for evil? My intention was to stand up to her and not allow her to continue to "walk all over me." But perhaps I was a tad selfish? Perhaps I could have given her more grace ("feed your enemy if he is hungry, etc."). Perhaps, I should have turned the other cheek?

Earlier when I meditated on "Vengeance is Mine," I suggested then that it does not necessarily mean we need to wait for final vindication for those who wronged us. Nor does it necessarily mean that we are letting God bring punishment to those who are acting unjustly against us.

However, we are to offer grace and mercy to those who treats us unjustly, who slander us, and who robs us because when Christ died on the cross, He consummates that Ulimate Vengeance. For us who are Christ followers, for us who believe in the efficacy of the death of Christ over the sin of the world, Vengeance is not in the future, it is in the past. Vengeance is not to be completed, it is already completed.

"It is Finished," He said, and that final victory that He brought about applies right now to all those circumstances when people are unjust. He died for the pain, the injustice and the disenfranchisement, and when we forgive, when we bless, and when we return good for evil, we complete what His death accomplished. We are able to let His death be effective in its redemptive power even in these unjust situations.

So, I wonder, did I allow Him to redeem my situation, or was I too hasty in trying to take justice in my own hands? Did I bring about this mess upon myself? Am I a victim of my own selfishness, and because I did not want to let my boss walk all over me, have I now put my own family in jeopardy and let fear and trepidation trample over us? I am not really sure. What I can be sure of is that Christ died for my sin, my shame, my guilt and my pain. Right now I am hurting in so many ways, confused, embattled, and struggling--drowning--in doubts and desperation. I might have been guilty of my own selfishness and of returning evil to Dragon Lady's evil towards me.

As I think of the unfair treatment that she dished out at me, and of the many thousands of dollars that she had robbed from me, I just need to know that Christ's death on the cross is Vengeance enough for the hurt, the pain and injustice. I need to let God's grace wash over me and bless Dragon Lady, asking God to give her success, and prosperity. In so doing, I will heap coals on her head. Of course it would have been more effective to do so while working for her, and more effective and powerful witness to bless her while still in her employ.

However, even if I might have been selfish in the past few weeks, and had forgotten to let Christ strength empower me under the pressure of the oppression, I now need to move forward, letting His blood cover me from further pain, aggravation and ire, and praying for Dragon Lady and the company. For after all, if the company succeeds not only will Dragon Lady enjoy the fruits of the success, but so will my former colleagues and even my former clients.

Earlier Paul said (verse 14),
"Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse."
I did walk away from the office without uttering a curse, although I must say I so wanted to. I did walk away from there in relatively good terms. I must say, I did not actively bless the business nor Dragon Lady when I left. When she extended her hands to shake mine and wished me well, I so wanted not to take it, but I did. I never wished her well though. I guess it is not too late to do that now.
"Lord I believe, help my unbelief. Lord I (want to) bless, help my (inclination to) curse."

...continue reading...Of blessings and curses

Friday, February 18, 2005

Second Day Blues

It started to hit about midnight last night. The undeniable doldrums and sense of foreboding. It was difficult to get to sleep, but I did, and slept quite well. This morning, I was able to fight the debilitating depression and get a few things done.

At least I managed to finish cleaning up my resume and met with a business consultant friend of mine who gave me a dozen names from his database. I also called a couple other people and met with my immigration attorney to talk strategy. I sent a draft of my resume to about twenty of my contacts a couple of whom have replied with critiques. I managed to finish editing my resume and completed research on a few positions that I would like to apply.

So in the end, I rewarded myself with a little time updating my blog (with books that impacted my life - a result of thinking through, and writing my resume). All in all a better-than-expected day. In between though, I had to fight off some tough feelings of despair, fear and self-pity.

Thanks to John, Rey and Dawn for leaving encouraging comments to my previous post.

Someone from my small group fellowship suggested to me that my boss did not fire me, but instead she released me from an intolerable situation. Actually I see it more like she fired me, but God used her to release me from that situation. (Gen 50:20).
20 You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives.
Dawn, when I was laid off three years ago, I used to tell people that I was hanging on by the skin of my teeth but yet I could sense "underneath (are) the everlasting arms" of the Lord (Deut 33:27).

27 The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. He will drive out your enemy before you, saying, 'Destroy him!'
You know the straw that broke the camel's back at the office was this: first, two weeks ago, my (former) boss while on vacation realized that she had to fly to San Francisco for a presentation to the client that I brought in (the largest single account ever in the history of the business - an account that she summarily took from my hands and declared that because it was such a large account she was going to take over, making the excuse that the client has requested that she does so... long story). She knew about the presentation a few days prior but when she arrived on the Monday, she called me to the office and asked if I "knew" exactly what the client wanted for the presentation.

Being the philosopher that I sometimes am inclined to be, I replied, I had a good idea but I did not know. She was all over me. She lectured me for not knowing, for allowing my Executive Officer to step into the "Lion's Den" as it were without being prepared. Mine you it was Monday 8:30 a.m. The presentation was scheduled for Wednesday 4 P.M. How dare I not be 1000% prepared? Why didn't I ask the right questions? Why didn't I already know that those were her expectations?

After about 40 minutes of her soul-sapping harangue, I cried, "Dragon lady (my aka for her, of course I used her real name), please, stop!" I then commented something about leadership styles and more productive use of leadership energies. She stopped me short.

"How dare you lecture me on leadership?" (If only she knew, I am writing my MA thesis on the "Ethics of Leaderhsip!" Isn't life sometimes ironically comical?)

Dragon Lady went on a tirade, but before she could go very far, I said, "Dragon Lady, no, you misunderstand me, I am not lecturing you about leadership. I am only saying what I am feeling as a follower."

"Feeling? You want to know about feeling? Let me tell you what I am feeling!" She then continued her spiel about her, her feelings, her frustration, her anger and angst. (You see, it is always about her).

I stopped her once more, "We are not being productive. It is now past 9 a.m. and we have been sitting here talking (more like she has been talking). Why don't you tell me what you want and let me get you all the information so that you can be 1000% prepared?"

She went on for another 10 minutes before she let up. Finally she calmed down enough to realize that she was really being unproductive and proceeded to bark commands to me and another staff to get things done for her, in her way.

That was nail #1 on the coffin (or door of emancipation, depending on your perspective).

That week, unfortunately I had an emergency involving my daughters that required me to leave the office on Tuesday afternoon, Thursday morning and then Friday afternoon as well. She was extremely and mightily displeased. You see, she thinks that as an exempt employee, I must work at least 40 hours a week. At least. If I worked more, the law says according to her, that I am not entitled to compensatory time off. If I worked less, according to her reading of the law, I must make up for the time. So it doesn't matter if I had worked extra hours before I had to take personal time off. I must show her how I make up the time after I had done so.

While discussing on the telephone on Friday, she said something about "emergencies not happening in threes." When I tried to interject, or at least to ask why she is questioning my integrity, she answered, and this is not an exageration, "Why do you need to answer back everytime your supervisor is reprimanding you or disciplining you?" I answered, "So do you think my taking time off for personal emergencies require reprimanding?" Fortunately or unfortunately we were having the conversation on the mobile phones and the connection was broken so she did not hear me.

In reality, I worked late every day for at least two weeks prior to those emergencies, and again that very week as well as the following week. So last week, I wrote her an email showing her the times I worked and expressing the fact that I had given more than I had taken. That was probably nail #2, for she hates to lose. Anything. Especially an argument with her subordinates.

The final nail is this: after a year and a half of working with this company she finally decided to buy me a mobile phone. I had observed that my colleagues had to use their own personal mobile phones to report to her whenever they are on the road. You see, she demands a verbal report while you are coming from an appointment.

Just on that principle, I refused to get myself a mobile phone for I do not believe that she should require me to use my personal mobile phone to conduct business without reimbursement. She finally decided to get me one because she needs to get in touch with me when I am driving or otherwise out of the office.

She wrote me a memo and required me to sign it as an agreement for using a company supplied mobile phone. In part, she wrote that the mobile phone was issued to me as a benefit in lieu of an increase in my salary. I replied with an email saying to her that that part of the agreement was never discussed, that the reasons cited previously why she decided to equip me with a mobile phone was that she needed to get a hold of me, and that a vendor had complained that I did not have a business mobile phone and was difficult to get in touch.

I wrote words to these effects: "Quite apart from the fact that I seriously doubt equipping a field sales account manager with a business mobile telephone constitute a benefit, we never discuss it as such. In fact, a business mobile telephone ought to be considered a "tool" of the trade for a field sales person. However, if you really believe that this is (1) a benefit, and (2) that it is provided in lieu of a salary increase, then I respectfully decline the benefit and request that to have my salary increased instead."

Her reply was short and terse, "Pls return the mobile phone immediately."

Then yesterday, after calling me into her office, she began the conversation by saying, "I wrote you an email and you did not like what I wrote. In any case the company is not in good shape financially, so I have decided to lay you off."

Yeah. Right.

So, you see? God used her. He used her to set me free. The thing is, He is going to work a miracle. Only that it might not be in the shape or form that I expect. That's why I am trepidating (ok, don't need to flusterate. It may not be a word, but I can be creative can't I?)
...continue reading...Second Day Blues

Thursday, February 17, 2005

My God is faithful.

I have just been fired.

The Lord gave my family and I this verse as a promise. Theologically, of course, this passage talks about Israel's expreience, but devotionally, the Lord does speak to His people in their circumstances through the Word.

In any case, as I was contemplating suicide (no, just kidding), I felt Him bringing up the following verse/promise:

Psalm 81:10:
"I am the LORD your God,
who brought you up out of Egypt.
Open wide your mouth and I will fill it"
...continue reading...My God is faithful.

Monday, February 14, 2005

Praying out of our circumstances

I have been in a very deep depression the past couple of weeks. I had stopped seeing my therapist a few weeks before Christmas, and also stopped the meds shortly after. The financial strain was just a tad much for me. At work my boss had cut my base salary and did a host of other things so that the prospect of earning commissions to make up for the difference is drastically minimized.

The challenges I face in my workplace continue to mount, and it looks like my days there are numbered. Even if I am not fired, I might have a nervous breakdown before that!

Quitting appear to be out of the question because of the complications with my work visa. Returning to Australia does not seem like a wise option for us at the moment as well. There are also other challenges with my oldest daughter's visa which is going to run out when she turns twenty-one in a matter of weeks. Then there are issues with my relationship with my children in general, and their problems with their friends, etc.

Everything is just getting quite a bit beyond my comfort level. Hence my sense of despair, desperation and despondency (I am sorry if you hate alliteration, but those words describe my situation aptly, along with other "D" words for good measure: destitution, distress, desolation and disconsolation) that has buffeted me with waves after waves of unrelenting fury, a sense of unease that seems to linger on defiantly.

Last week, I actually lost it and cussed and swore several times at my boss (behind her back, but well within earshot of my colleagues and later on at home, that of my wife - note: I did not swear at my wife - as I released the pent-up frustraions and stress of the day). My boss had spent most of our interactions last week berating, yelling at, discrediting and belittling me - as I said before, the lengths that this woman go to in her quest to stomp on everyone around her are so unbelievable that really shocks me! She not only did not give me credit for things that I did well, but took the credit for herself and then she would turn around and blame me for errors, that when compared to the areas that I have excelled in, are inconsequential. It became unbearable for me and I responded. Badly, negatively and toxicly.

This past weekend, I lost my cool and yelled at my own family not once but twice, and it wasn't pretty. My wife urged me to go back on the meds and warned me that I would be driving my those closest to me away if I do not do something to get back in control. Our Daughter #1 came to our rescue and said that the family will rally together and be supportive of each other, and be the meds for us all. I thanked her - and thank God for small mercies - and said, let's be the balm of peace, grace and mercy for each other and let the Spirit of God minister to each other through each of us.

Ultimatlely, I think, even though the immigration lawyer has asked me to "hang in there" and not to look for another job until I get my Green Card, I might have to step out into the Great Unknown. As I was telling my small group fellowship last Friday night, I need to pray for wisdom to discern whether to pray for more faith to endure the trials and tribulations or more faith to trust God for a less stressful work environment.

In my reflection of my current situation, I found Psalm 18 very helpful, appropriate and enlightening for me. For in it, the Psalmist expressed not just about his distressing circumstances and how utterly incapacitated and paralyzed he felt in the situation, but he also declared his relationship with His God who acts to enter into the circumstances of His people when they invite Him to do so.

I am reminded that too often our prayers are more in the nature of
"Dear Lord, please take me out of this situation,"
"Dear Lord, please remove this situation from me."
But God wants us to pray,
"Father, I invite You into my situation so that I can experience You afresh admist this chaos. Rather than focusing on a change in the circumstances, however necessary that may be, I pray that you will work a change in my heart. Empower me, my dear Lord, to draw upon your Spirit, so that I can allow You to redeem my situation and transform me in the process."
...continue reading...Praying out of our circumstances

A new command

In preparation for submission to the Christian Carnival this week, I updated this post with a final paragraph to make clear the point of the post

What is the eleventh commandment?

That used to be one of the trick questions that as kids my friends and I asked one another. The answer we were looking for was the "New Commandment" that Jesus gave His disciples:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
I used to wonder why Jesus called this the "new commandment." Why new commandment? What is so special about the new commandment that the first ten didn't cover? Another way to look at it is, if we were diligently to keep the ten commandments in our relationship with members of the Body of Christ, would we thereby have fulfilled the new commandment?

If the answer is in the affirmative, then why did the Lord Jesus explicitly give the new commandment to His disciples? Why couldn't he had simply commanded His disciples to be especially careful about keeping the ten commandments in their relationships within the community of faith? In fact, why be "extra careful" if just normally following the ten commandments would have done the job as well?

So, how is the love that Christians should show for one another any different to the love that they have for their neighbors? One possible answer is, "Christ wants to underscore the special place the Church is to have in the life of the Christian. We are to love one another in a special way that demonstrates that we are disciples of the King."

Yet, the language of a "commandment" seems to raise the dynamics of the relationships within the body of Christ above that of a mere difference of degree and emphasis compared to the relationships we have with those who don't follow God. It might be true that the Church ought to hold a new and significant place in the life of the believer, yet, the idea that this is a new commandment, I believe, points to a more profound truth.

In my earlier meditations on the fifth commandment, I suggested that God placed a special means of grace within the human family relationships, and especially the parent-child relationship, to communicate and illustrate His own relationship with His people. It is within this foundational relationships that God wants to have human beings experience His grace and mercy in a microcosmic context. In other words, it is through the primary relationships established within the context of the safety and intimacy of those who are closest to us that He wants us to learn what it means to be safe and intimate with our Creator.

However, as is often the case in human institutions, the family often does not reflect what God intends. It gets broken, it becomes dysfunctional and it often does not fulfill the role that God established it to be. To remedy this state of affairs, God established a new center of relationship to recreate the means of grace, the new family through which His grace, mercy and love can be communicated and illustrated to the world. The Church is now that instrument of peace, not as a replacement for the natural family, but as the fulfillment of the goals that God established with the family. Through the Church now, He has established a new medium through which His Spirit works in people to re-build and re-establish the relationship the Creator desires to have with His creatures.

In other words, through the Church, God intends to provide the means for people to recover their sense of who they are, their relationship with God, and the experience of the grace and peace that can only come by an intimate relationship with our Father in Heaven. It is through this radically new relationship within the community of faith that He has given for us to restore and heal our innermost beings and to learn this new lifestyle. Thus, Christ's new commandment is given within this context of the role of the Church as a place of solace, a means of grace and a place for dysfunctional people and families to receive recovery, healing and peace as they extend Christ's love, grace and mercy to one another.

Another perspective of the New Commandment is that it can be seen as the extension, or the fulfillment, of the Greatest of the Commandments. When asked which was the greatest of all the commandments, Jesus answered that the Greatest Commandment is to:

"...Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." The second is this: "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Upon these two laws, says Jesus, hung the entire Law of Moses and the Prophets. No other Commandment is greater than these, he stressed.

But that, it appears, is not the end of the story, for rather than emphasizing to His disciples to pay close attention to these Greatest of all Commandments, He said, really you only need to focus in on one: the new commandment. Which might be why the New Testament seems to spend so much time in the "one another" commands: Pray for one another, love one another, forgive one another, accept one another, serve one another, submit to one another, bear one another's burdens, and so on. By so doing, says the Apostle Paul, you will thereby fulfill the Law of Christ.

Christ has already established that He has not come to abolish or to replace the Law, but to fulfill it. By re-casting the Law and the Prophets as being represented by the Greatest Commandments, He demonstrated that the basis of the Commandments is the relationship between God and His people, a relationship marked by a radical love. And, in giving His disciples a new commandment to love one another, He reinforces this powerful underpinning of the Commandments: a relationship of love, not a contract of law.

The New Commandment, then, underscores the role of the Church as the new instrument of peace and grace for the world today and it also completes the Greatest Commandments, and by extension, the Law and the Prophets. The Church's radical love is not only a means of grace for the believers, but also for those yet to believe: "By this shall all men know you are my disciples, if you have love one for another." And, it is only possible when Christians practice the "one another" aspects of our New Covenant relationships, for we then fulfill the New commandment not only for each other, but for the world. That is how we fulfill the "Law of Christ" - the law given by Christ to His disciples and the Law that He came to fulfill to bring men back to God again.

That is why I often tell people that as Christians, we are saved not for ourselves, but primarily for "each other." In other words, the essence of our Christian faith is not so much personal salvation, or personal sanctification, but the sanctification of the Church. If there is another Christian with you right now, stop and look that person in the eyes and say, "I was saved for you." That's right, that is our purpose, our mission: to be Christ to each other in order that through authentic, intimate relationships, we bring heaven down to earth for each other and so that we bring each other closer to God, so that we all may experience Radical Peace. Peace with God and Peace with each other. That is why when this message hit home to me recently, I made a commitment to never again complain that my brothers and sisters in Christ are unloving, insensitive or difficult to love. Instead, I resolved to commit myself to them, to be loyal to them, and to love them in spite of how they make me feel, and to do so even if I don't feel like it.

For that is the essence of the New Commandment, and that is the way I fulfill the Law of Christ in both of its senses - to build the Church of God, and to display the marks of Christ to the world.

So rather than understand the new commandment as the eleventh commandment, it perhaps closer to the emphasis that Christ wsa trying to make to understand it as the Third of the Greatest of all Commandments. In essence, the message is this:
"Loving God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and loving your
neighbor as yourself are the two commandments upon which the entire Law and
Prophets hang. As my disciples, let me issue you a new commandment:
Love one another as I have loved you, for in so doing, you would have fulfilled both those commands, as well as all the Law and Prophets."
...continue reading...A new command

Sunday, February 13, 2005

Best of Me Symphony #63

The Best of Me Symphony is showcased this week with the usual artistic flair as The Owner's Manual's Gary Cruse presents Hunter S. Thompson as the virtual "Guest Conductor" of this week's opus magna, with the various posts.

Gary has tirelessly and with apparent artistic skill and ease, put together the potpourri of posts to resemble a symphony of sorts interweaving them together by choice quotes from the "Guest Conductor" and graphics. Again, he does a remarkable job this week. My own musings on Logic and God is among the melange of posts, which thankfully include a variety of subjects rather than the usual heavily political slants.
...continue reading...Best of Me Symphony #63

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Culture, Faith and Being Counter-Cultural

Today is the first day of the Chinese New Year of the Rooster, the Year 4702 or 4642 depending on whether you start to count from the first year of Emperor Hwang Di's reign or the sixty-first year (most people prefer to count from the first). But! Who is counting, really!

As someone who loves history and who would like to maintain my children's heritage for as long as possible for them, I also know that most of the time, I am fighting an uphill battle. This morning as I was reflecting on some of the things that I like to keep alive in the family and about some of the traditions that I keep or used to keep as a kid, my thoughts led me to ask whether some of the practices were "christian" actions, behavior or attitudes. I remember back when I was younger, a lot of those of us Asians who became Christians rejected many of our Asian customs and beliefs because we assume that these are all vestiges of our former religious and idolatrous lifestyle. Our Christian leaders were no help on this as they encouraged us to do the same.

I now think it is quite unfortunate. While I believe we may not have thrown out the baby with the bathwater, we probably disposed of the bathtub, leaving the baby naked and unattended. This reminds me that in the Church's history, the early Christians learned how to differentiate between elements in the culture that can be adopted by the new Christians, and the early missionaries probably knew the difference between the gospel and elements in culture that are not necessarily religious nor anti-Christian. However, later, Protestant missionaries, especially, went into different cultures and destroyed more than just the religious underpinnings of these cultures. They decided that everything of the local culture to be not only unchristian but anti-Christian.

Now, the celebration of Chinese New Year includes many motifs and decorative items that stems from Chinese mythology, traditions, customs, symbols and rituals. I remember as a younger Christian, nearly all of these traditions and customs were banished by Christians and Churches who label all these elements of the culture to be religious icons of our past. For instance, a pastor once came into our home during Chinese New Year celebrations and mentioned that the decorative dragons that my wife hung up in our living room were idolatrous and symbolized the dragon of Revelations 13. I believe this is an example of misapplying the Scriptures and I believe this is a mistake of conflating cultural elements with elements of religious practices and to summarily dismiss everything of a particular culture as non-Christian and therefore spiritually deleterious.

Sometimes, Christians get overzealous in being counter-cultural, and equate being glaringly opposed to the prevalent culture of the day is a mark of spirituality and discipleship. I seriously doubt that this is the essence of our calling. When in Acts, the early Christians were blamed to have turned their world upside down, it weren't the then cultural leaders and masses who were complaining that to be the case. The complaints came from the dominant religious leaders of the day, because the authentic followers of Christ rocked their religious sensibilities and the comforts of their religious orthordoxy.

Indeed the Lord Himself urges that we are to be in the world but not of it. Yet, some Christians today think that we are called to be not only not of the world, but also not in the world! If we believe them, we will not be able to do what the Lord says we need to do by being not of the world, and that is to draw the world to our heavenly Father.
...continue reading...Culture, Faith and Being Counter-Cultural

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Expedient morality

As long as it is convenient, or as long as it is affordable (or profitable) I will be moral. As long as the practice of morality does not impinge upon my quest for comfort, pleasure and self-satisfaction, I will be altruistic (kind, cooperative, compassionate, loving, etc.) and maintain a high standard of ethics in my personal, business and commercial lives.

If the law, whether civil, religious or moral is not too much trouble, if it does not make me feel bad and does not interfere with my sense of well-being, nor does it bother my comfort or disrupt my quest for happiness and personal freedom, then I will abide by it.

However, once what the law demands impinges upon my personal freedom, or disrupts my comfort, I will choose other more convenient paths to follow. If it is likely that I will not be caught or found out, then my choice might be made easier. If however, there is a risk that I might be found out, then I might begrudgedly abide by what the law demands. Judged by the legal code alone, my actions (or lack thereof) might be judged as "not blameworthy" but can the actions be judged to be moral? More importantly will I be called a moral person? Worse, how much does my day-to-day life reflect such a philosophy?

...continue reading...Expedient morality

Sunday, February 06, 2005

I did say I love challenges

I read the review of my blog by Bad Example and decided to take up the challenge to change my blog color scheme. First I tried to add a different color to my main panel, then one thing led to another, and I even went back to basics by starting out with a totally new template and re-designed it, transferring the bulk of the sidebar (left & right) over. Main re-designing was the adding of the left bar. This time around, there was less screw up of the margins and such, but who knows? I haven't yet tested it on my other computers which do not have Firefox (shudder! and yawn! I will do it another day!)

See, I am getting good at re-designing template, even though I don't have much of a clue what I am doing. Ok, I do know how to read "Help files" and use the tried-and-true change-one-thing-at-a-time-and-see-the-damage-you'd-done method of trial-and-error changing of a template.

So, after a couple hours of half watching Braveheart on TV (Mel Gibson, apart from dishing out good acting, also looked like a geeky high school boy in a bad costume... anyway, as always, I digress...)and half working on the blogkeeping, viola! here's my new look!

Please let me know what you think -- is this design better than the all blue affair?

P.S. Looks like I am being thrashed at the King of the Blogs tournament, so if you care, please help me boost my score. You can help by leaving a trackback at this post and voting here as well!

UPDATE: I was thrashed in the King of the Blogs tournament! Oh, well. At least I learned something, and I finished re-modelling my blog. Guess I'll take a break now!

...continue reading...I did say I love challenges

Friday, February 04, 2005

Thoughts about being Jacob

It’s been a while since I wrote anything about my work. It has not been any better than when I wrote about it before. In fact, it has been worse. I have been reticent to write anything about my situation because of fear of repercussions like others have experienced (call me chicken but I do have a family to whom I owe responsibility), but it is getting to me somewhat, and I need to have a place to share some of my thoughts.

Over the time I have worked for her, my boss has managed to break not one but several promises to me and has changed my salary package three times, each time making it more difficult for me to earn what I want (and frankly, what I deserve). As a sales account manager, I depend on a commission arrangement for most of my earnings. I don’t really have a problem with that (being paid for performance), because I thrive at challenges and I have been in sales for a good part of my life, including a stint at running my own business.

Pay is not the only issue I have over here. My boss often reminds us because she is the “Founder, CEO and President” of the company, she can do whatever she likes, and she can give commands and expect our unquestioning obedience. A case in point: we sell software and consulting services to corporate customers. Recently, a customer asked me to provide a “ball-park” estimate for some computer equipment so that she can take those figures to talk to her internal IT department. My boss instructed me to go to and price out the equipment and then bump the price by 10%. I opined (in an email) that we should probably just price the hardware and then send the customer to Dell to purchase it directly if they wanted, since they are in the business of selling hardware not us. She came back with a terse reply, which reads in part: “I wasn’t asking you. You will add 10% and send it to the customer.” So, you see, she doesn't appreciate and want feedback from her employees. We are just supposed to do as we are told. As I shared with a colleague the other day, the worse part of being treated like a monkey is that eventually you behave like one.

I often arrive at work between 8:15 a.m. and 8:20 a.m. in the morning even though the office starts at 8:00. I leave the office most evenings at 5:30 to 6:00. However, there are evenings when I just have to leave at 5:00 p.m. She has written me up in my appraisal that I need to (a) call my supervisor (her) when I am running late (b) work an “honest eight hours” based on my arrival time and (c) be more consistent with my arrival time. Recently I have received an email asking if I wish to change my working hours from 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It doesn’t matter if I stay till 6 sometimes, or work during weekends, or on the odd occasion when I work late into the night (morning) because according to her, I must give "an honest 8 hours of work."

Partly in response to that email, a couple days ago, I sent an email to request for 2 hours off today for personal reasons, indicating to her that I had stayed till between 5:30 and 6:00 each day the past two weeks. Her reply is "OK, but! If you are coming in at 8:20+ leaving at 5:20+ doesn't mean you are putting in any extra time at all! After all, as an exempt employee you are supposed to work a minimum of 8 hours not a maximum." When I pointed out to her that I come in BEFORE 8:20 and leave AFTER 5:30, she asked, "Why are you arguing with me! After all, you haven't made quota yet, and if our roles were reversed, you would feel the same as me." I didn't reply that email because she demonstrated her inablity or refusal to listen or read my emails anyway, but if I had replied, I would have said this, "If our roles were differentreversed, you will be a much happier person than you are now." I have managed staff and I know my staff have regularly come to me and say that they appreciate my management style, and that they appreciate me, so I think that would have been a fair statement.

I can go on citing examples and anecdotes how crazy things are around here, but I think you can imagine it yourself by now. A few nights ago, my wife reminded me of the story of Jacob and Laban. It is an interesting story and parts of it resonate with me. Have a
read of what it says:
"I have been with you for twenty years now. Your sheep and goats have not miscarried, nor have I eaten rams from your flocks. I did not bring you animals torn by wild beasts; I bore the loss myself. And you demanded payment from me for whatever was stolen by day or night. This was my situation: The heat consumed me in the daytime and the cold at night, and sleep fled from my eyes. It was like this for the twenty years I was in your household. I worked for you fourteen years for your two daughters and six years for your flocks, and you changed my wages ten times. If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you."
I remember when we first began this part of our life journey that we felt God unequivocably gave us a promise in Genesis 50:20:
"You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives"
Our subsequent experiences confirmed to us that God has been leading us and most of all, that He cares and looks after us in our adversities. We have time and again experienced His gracious and merciful intervention in our lives so even though things have been quite stressful and life uncertain, we know that God has been there all along walking with us. Yet, sometimes, when I have to face another situation or issue at work, I just have to ask, "Are you with me, God?"

Perhaps that's the wrong question. The story of Jacob reminds me of other Scriptures which tells me that God has already given me all the resources to do well no matter what circumstance I find myself. Even in the hardest of conditions, God has promised to be with me. Jacob had to work 20 years! 14 years in order to get the wife of his dreams and then another 6 more for his livestock. I supposed 2-3 years for me doesn't even compare. What I need to focus on is to allow God's blessings to flow through me. As my wife says, "You will prosper and the company will prosper because God is with you!"

Usually I cringe when I hear such messages, especially if it is from the pulpit. It is dangerously close to the "success gospel" that I think is so rampant in this "me-centered" culture that we live in. Yet, when my wife said that to me, I realized that the most important thing about "prosperity" and the Old Testament notion of "doing well" is not just about material success.

I believe in the Old Testament "prosperity" is a sign of having peace with God, self and neighbors. If that is what is meant by prosperity, I am going to make myself a channel of blessing, and bring prosperity not only to myself, but also to my colleagues at work, and especially to my boss.

In spite of all the belittling and soul-damaging ways that my boss dishes out, I need to rise above and demonstrate the peace of God that is already within me because He has given me the Holy Spirit, and allow God to so infuze me that I can allow Him to turn every upset, every hurt and every harm into a blessing, not just for me but also for everyone around me. I pray that I will have the strength, courage and wisdom so to do and be Jacob in this place.

...continue reading...Thoughts about being Jacob

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Honor your father and mother

After a few weeks of distractions, and a couple of recaps of where I have been, I am finally tackling the fifth commandment: "Honor your father and your mother so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you." Paul calls this the first commandment with promise:
Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. “Honor your father and mother”–which is the first commandment with a promise– “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.” Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
A couple of questions come to mind here. If this is the first commandment with promise, then where are the rest of the commandments with promises? Not among the ten, at least I can't find any other in my Bible. Perhaps, there are other commandments with promises elsewhere in the Bible, yet I am racking my brain to find any. Perhaps someone can enlighten me here.

Could it be that the phrase that Paul used here could be translated differently? Perhaps, we can read this as, “This is the quintessential commandment with promise.” The idea being that all of the commandments have promises tied to them implicitly. The special thing about this commandment above all, is that it represents the unwritten link between keeping the commandments and receiving the reward for obedience. Thus, this commandment represents the principle underlying all of the commandments.

If we apply the notion that the commandments ought to be viewed not so much from a legal context, but from a relationship context, then perhaps, because the fifth commandment is about the most basic of all relationships--that of the parent-child--it exemplifies what all of the commandments are about.

Be that as it may, one might still think, if the flow of the logic of the Commandments was from love for God to love for self, and finally, love for others, then the first basic principle ought to have been respect for the sanctity of life. It just seems that basic to all relationships is the fact that we have the highest regard for human life and the commandment forbiding the taking of another's life ought to have been the foundation for interpersonal relationships. Yet, we see God places the emphasis on the fifth commandment before the sixth.

The reason might be that God created us not only as individuals, but also, and indeed, primarily, for relationships - we are created essentially social beings. In fact, many ills, character defects, addictions and "mental unwellness" can be traced back to some kind of dysfunction in our socialization - espcially dysfunction in our family of origin relatinships.

It is also through this initial family relationship and especially the parent-child relationship that we gain all the basic essentials for life, and are equipped for living. We learn trust, love, honesty, forgiveness, cooperation and the necessary virtues that are needed for healthy relationships. We also establish the foundations for our self-identity and self-esteem through this basic relationship. If this relationship is broken, jeopardized, or becomes dysfunctional, it impacts us throughout our entire lifetime. However, a healthy home life and especially a happy childhood, provides the grounding for a satisfying and happy life. That is in essence the fulfillment of "promise" of the fifth commandment: “that it may go well with you and that you may enjoy long life on the earth.”

The emphasis in the giving of the fifth commandment is the fact that this foundational of all human relationships illustrate, and is an outflowing of, the relationship we have with our Creator. For, without the ultimate relationship with our Father in Heaven, we will not be able properly to relate to our human father and mother, and consequently our other relationships are all adversely affected, negatively impacted, tainted, broken, messed up. The fifth commandment, seen from the perspective of the relational underpinnings of the Commandments, establishes the focal point from which all humans learn to relate to one another, to oneself and to God.

Interestingly, the cure for dysfunctions in our relationships is not first and foremost to seek recovery in that relationship. While that is obviously important and will bring healing to our souls, our Lord Jesus Christ actually provided a new family through which we find recovery, healing and ultimately, find our very soul. He did this in a moving demonstration of what He has come to established: the Church by giving us the New Commandment:
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another.By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (NIV).
I will have more to say later, in a separate post, about this commandment, and its relationship to the two Greatest Commandment and about the balm that God has provided for us to heal, recover and to regain our souls through the Church family.

For those of us who are parents the fifth commandment is, in more ways than one, a means of grace - for it is through the dyamics of this relationship that He teaches not only our children to walk with Him. Also we parents are able to catch a glimpse of the heart of the Heavenly Father through our interacting with our children.

That is why Paul emphasizes that the commandment is not just a one way honoring of one's father and mother, but a two-way responsiblity: Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right... Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.

...continue reading...Honor your father and mother