Friday, April 5, 2013

Just sitting here drinking my Wittenberg beer...

Where I worked for
"the man"
I haven’t always been this carefree (ha!) artsy-fartsy, “I’ll just spend a couple of minutes on Facebook, an hour on my blog,” self-employed gal. Yes, that’s right – I once worked for “the man” aka, a big company. I enjoyed great health insurance, a credit union, a “breakroom,” a not-too-shabby Christmas bonus, and the support of wonderful and hilarious co-workers (RIP Nancy Michelle – I miss you!) That said, I now enjoy the freedom to be the aforementioned carefree, self-employed, yoga-pants-wearing work-at-home/own-business-owning mom.

Having been away from the corporate climate for seven years, I am not sure what the new trends in employee betterment are. I have vague memories of completing a group course based on the book, Who Moved My Cheese? by Spencer Johnson, M.D. Remember that gem? It must still be a thing, because there’s a web site. If I remember correctly it was about some mice in a maze who freak out because their cheese is suddenly not where they last saw it. It’s supposed to help people learn how to deal with change without stressing out. (Come to think of it, when an organization has its employees take this course, shouldn’t that be a red flag that someone's about to start shuffling the cheese around?!)

Another time we were all ushered through a famous course of study called “Covey Training.” Based on the best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen R. Covey, a self-help book published in 1989. Looking it up on Wikipedia will give you a fairly tight synopsis of the seven habits, which include pithy nuggets like, “Put First Things First,” (Habit 3) and “Think Win-Win.” (Habit 4) 

Who, indeed...
Sitting there in the conference room with people from up and down the food chain at my corporation, I was excited by these easily absorbed and remembered (albeit obvious) concepts, but also found myself kind of surreptitiously looking around the room at the other participants thinking, “Sure I’ll give it a go, but how far will it get me – y’all will still be a-holes.” It’s not a thought I’m proud of…. I’m just saying… Sometimes a workplace seems more like a tug of war between opposing departments than a group of people working toward the same end.

That said, even working for myself sometimes seems like a tug of war… between my clients, their clients, me, and my family… I gotta say, though, it’s still much nicer than putting on an actual outfit and going to a job all day every day.

Anyway, that LONG intro is just to bring us to the point where I can tell you that back when I was coerced into learning to use the seven effective habits, the part I most remember was Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind. As part of working this step, we were instructed to devise our own mission statement, and I was all over that. I was young. Energetic, even. Gung ho. I did a lot of aerobics. I declared (on paper – we didn’t have to share with the group) my grand and lofty purpose to be part of what they call the Shema. It’s in the Bible in Deuteronomy, and then Jesus repeats it in Matthew 22:37, when someone asks him to identify the greatest commandment: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.”
Like Jesus said, it’s the greatest commandment, and so, a worthy goal. And being the gung-ho, energetic young Christian I was, embracing this seemed like a perfectly reasonable life purpose. And it was. I’m not saying otherwise… but…

Fast forward about 15+ years… to find me here, still gung-ho in my own way, but … much older, and much tireder. In the intervening years, I’ve moved several times, married, birthed and cared for a child, started my own business and written nearly 200 blog posts. I’ve watched myself, the church and society as a whole go through a lot of changes. In accordance, I have two reflections on my previous mission statement.

First of all, if you read the entire blurb of Jesus’s discourse in Matthew 22, you see that he also mentions the second greatest commandment.
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.””
You can get the Shema on a plate!

You see, besides all these experiences, my extra years have included many relationships – close and loose contact with all sorts of people, and I have learned that the two great commandments go hand in hand. I couldn’t just love God and ignore the people around me (or call them a-holes in my mind or otherwise as I did at the time.) I’m not sure how else to say it, but … God is easy to love, in theory. He’s perfect. He’s not even visible. But to love Him means to love what He loves… and that is everybody.

When I declared my life’s purpose to be the Shema, I didn’t exclude loving my neighbor as myself on purpose, but I think you have to include this part ON PURPOSE… because it’s not always the natural thing to do. Even the best people can be annoying, am I right?

That said, even my new and improved purpose, ie: one which incorporates both love for God and love for neighbor, is no longer my mission statement/motto/slogan. After years of striving and failing, I know that it is an impossible hill to climb. Even at my most buoyant, I couldn’t put a toe on that towering pinnacle.

In keeping with the Martin Luther quote,
maybe my bucket looks like this!
No, knowing what I know now, I find myself desiring to do this, but ultimately having to rest on a different cushion. So… I have a new motto. It comes from 2 Corinthians… In this passage Paul talks about some  hardship he’s going through. 
"Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”
 And that’s my motto: “His grace is sufficient.” (2 Corinthians 12:8-9)

Some goals are achievable – lose weight, quit smoking, become a manager, write a book… I guess when I was young and wild, I thought loving God with my whole self was a realistic goal. Now I know that it is not… not without His love and grace.

I guess a good metaphor for this would involve a huge bucket that needs filling. My own efforts to love, work, acheive... sort of dampen the bottom of the bucket – it’s more like a token gesture. God fills the rest to overflowing with his infinite supply of love and grace.

Just this morning I read this awesome quote:
Martin Luther and his little
 glass of Wittenberg bear
"It is reported that Martin Luther once said, 'While I drink my little glass of Wittenberg beer, the gospel runs its course.'* Surely this is one of the truest and most reassuring things ever said about beer and God in the same breath. Our relationship with God is not the result of our efforts. Rather, a loving and gracious God acted on our behalf, granting us a most benevolent gift.” – Fil Anderson, Running On Empty
Anderson refers here to our relationship with God, but I find that no thing that I attempt or achieve in any arena – being a wife and mom, working, just getting through each day - is due to my own efforts, but to God’s grace. And it is sufficient. It kind of has to be... because I am definitely not.

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