It’s been one of those weeks where it seems like every question is a hard one, and unfortunately I’ve been designated as the “go to” person for those thorny questions that just don’t have a clear answer. I’m not sure how I got this honor. People say I’m smart, but I think it might have more to do with the fact that I’m not afraid to make up an answer if “I don’t know” won’t do. And of course, it often won’t. Hence, my inventive instincts kick in and alas, the unanswerable continues to come to me for an answer. I don’t know why others aren’t comfortable taking what they know and extrapolating an answer. Maybe it’s my personality. Or maybe it’s because I’m not afraid to do it.
Still, despite my creative instincts, there are still some things that I just don’t get. Don’t call me a “know it all” yet people, because I don’t understand:
1. Why charisma wins popularity but integrity isolates. I know people swarming with friends that don’t do anything for anybody but the almighty “I” and others that give and give, and people tell them it’s never good enough. Real story: I can tell you of instances when I took off work to go to funerals or to visit people when they were sick. “Thanks!” they said, but once they recovered I was relegated back to my place on the Christmas card list while they ran right back to their buddies that were too busy and couldn’t be bothered with “using their leave like that” or dropping a card in the mail. Why was my time out not good enough but their casual “oh, sorry for your loss” when you went back to work okay?
2. Why is it fine for some people to “be like that” but others need to get their act together. This harkens to my last entry about how it seems people like some people and their problems more than other people and their problems. An undependable person that you can’t trust to show up when they say they will is thought of as a “swell guy” because he has that charisma and can light up a room with cheerful banter. “Yea he’s not dependable, but that’s just him!” People say. But his shy neighbor that always shows up when he’s needed is “shady” because “I just don’t know if I can trust him. He really needs to be more open and honest with people.” I tell you; it seems that character doesn’t matter anymore. Why doesn't "swell guy" need to clean up his act and keep his word? And better yet, why do people get angry and defensive if you even hint at such a thing? It seems to me like people pick their friends arbitrarily and they won’t get facts get in the way of what they want to believe.
3. What's up with cliques? Why, people? They’re useless. You don’t have to be in one to have friends. I know because I’m not a group or clique person and I get along with people just fine. In fact, if I ask people questions then they usually tell me things because they know I’m not going to gossip or use it to create drama. Which brings me to my next item …
4. Gossip and drama. OMG. Why even bother? I have enough to deal with without having drama stirred up by people being sensitive and/no nosy. As the saying goes, nobody’s got time for that. At least I don’t.
5. Why are we quick to assume the worst of those we know and the best of strangers? Some people do. Here’s a recent conversation I had:
Them: “There was a bag in my yard this morning! Why would my neighbor throw their trash in my yard?”
Me: “You saw them do it? Why didn’t you ask them about it?”
Them: “No! I mean, it was between our houses. Do you think they pushed it on my side?”
Me: “So you’ve counted out that a stranger driving by might have thrown it out of their car and it blew into your yard?”
Them: “Oh. I didn’t think about that.” Pause. “Could that happen?”
Me: “I’ve seen bags blow in my yard a lot and its windy out today. But hey, you know your neighbor. If you think they did it …”
Them: “No! They probably wouldn't ... I mean, it probably blew in my yard.”
Why were they quick to blame the neighbor and count out a stranger being an igit? I don’t know. And yet, this is a small example of what I see often. People are harsh with those they claim to love and will grant eternity’s grace to strangers. It seems to me it should be the other way around: suspect the stranger, assume the best of the inner circles. But who am I to say? It seems human nature is drifting toward assuming the worst in a lot of cases. We see nefarious intentions everywhere.
6. The weatherman can be wrong 50% of the time (or more) and keep a job. Could you keep your job with a record like that?
7. Why does everybody want Friday off? Friday is my easy, catch up day because of staff shortages and slower calls/emails/mail. I want Monday off. That’s the day everybody comes back and it hits the fan.
8. Yield signs. I saw somebody stop at one a week ago for the first time in I can’t remember when. People ignore them. We need to replace them with Stop signs.
9. Wearing a watch on an airplane when you’re crossing time zones. I learned the futility of this when I went to Arizona. I think I was the only one on the plane wearing one. And yet, I was pestered to death. “What time is it in Charlotte? How long have we been in the air? How much longer till we land?” Why ask me these questions? The watch doesn’t control time and its ability to tell it was compromised. Next time, I don’t wear it or hide it in my carry on. Geeze.
10. Why do thermostats even have settings below 70 degrees or over 75 degrees? You know people get uncomfortable at temperatures outside that range. Choices, schmoices. Build HVAC systems for reality, folks!
11. Why is everybody wearing yellow today? I’ll wear my new yellow shirt, I thought this morning. Then I got here and saw about 10 people coming in wearing yellow. What’s up with that?
I don’t know. These are some of life’s questions that I can’t even hazard a guess. So I suppose my inventive instincts aren’t that sharp after all. But maybe they do still work to a degree, because the beauty of being a writer is that I can pass the questions I can’t answer on to you, the reader, and let you be the judge. Heh heh heh.
That’s all today. Happy Friday to you. Have a great weekend.
I’m often asked if the things that happened to Jana Lanning in my recent novel, Anywhere But Here, actually happened to me. For those of you that haven’t read this novel, Jana Lanning, the protagonist, is denied admission to graduate school, finds out her boyfriend is cheating on her, helps her best friend get married and move out of town, and has to settle for a job that she’s overqualified for – and all of this happens within two weeks of getting her undergraduate degree. Then to make things worse, the office where she works starts a merger with another firm and Jana finds herself on the wrong end of office politics that are the final straw in her battle with depression. The thing people seem the most interested in are the office politics. People want to know if the happenings at Dixon Financial are reflective of my job before it was transferred to a new agency a couple of years ago.
In response to that I’d say not entirely, but I can’t deny that some things that happened to me early in my career are reflected in people and events that take place in the book. I know that’s cryptic, but bear in mind two things: The people and events are fictionalized and that was accomplished through a mixture of my personal experiences, experiences I’ve seen and heard of from other people, and instances I’ve read about in books, magazines, news and other media. It came from a vast pool and I’ll admit that I had experience with being on the wrong end of office politics – heck, how could you write about it even from a fictionalized perspective unless you lived it in some way – but it’s also a universal issue that anybody working in an office environment is going to be on one end or the other of. And sorry folks, but there are probably going to be times when you find yourself on the wrong side, at least from the perspective of the majority.
My purpose in both writing Anywhere But Here and this entry isn’t to bash my former workplace. These things happened a decade ago, and I must admit that I said and did things that weren’t wise and didn’t lead to the best resolution in the situations I faced. I certainly learned from those experiences and in retrospect, I’m glad I learned those lessons early in life or I certainlywouldn’t be where I am now. The purpose is to share lessons learned, because this is something that I believe everybody in the workforce faces at some time. It makes you feel isolated and lonely when it happens, but the truth is that you aren’t alone. Lots of people face it but few talk about it because frankly, it’s embarrassing.
I used to think that people playing office politics were selfish jerks that like to hurt people, but experience has shown me that it actually grows from a root of fear. People that play with power are insecure and doubt their own ability, so they create an elaborate game of turning people and things to their advantage. I’ve found that there are 2 good ways to identify a person that is likely to use power to their advantage:
1.They cling tightly to cliques that are made up of people that are higher on the chain of command than they are; and
2.They don’t associate with anybody on the chain of command below them unless it’s absolutely necessary - and those people better give them what they want immediately or it’s insubordination.
It’s the people in category #2 that usually find themselves on the losing end of office politics because any wrong word or deed will be met with fierce retaliation. I won’t say that I never see office politics anymore, but I have found that I find myself in these situations a lot less since I’ve been reclassified to a mid-level position. I’d like to think this is because I’ve proven that my knowledge and abilities are valuable, but it’s more likely that I learned valuable lessons on how to deal with these types from previous experience – and people know it.
So what’s the secret to dealing when you’re the victim of office politics? If you’re right, stand by that. Don’t ever cave in and take the quick and easy way out because that’s a temporary end. If they’d turn on you once, they’ll turn on you again. Caving in only shows that you can be taken advantage of, and they will milk that dry, plus the consequences of doing wrong will follow you a lot longer than standing up for what’s right. They might not like you, but they’ll respect you and at least know not to let you catch them with their hand in the cookie jar again. If you aren’t right, correct yourself immediately and stick to your guns in walking down the right road. And whichever situation you’re in, it’s imperative that you have patience. Truth will show itself in time and it will be end game then. It might take months or even years for things to come around, but they will and you’ll be better off for it. The reward will come in patient endurance, and it will be something that nobody can deny. Sure, there are people that are so stubborn that they’ll refuse to change their mind no matter what happens, but don’t worry about them. Leave them in their ignorance and move on because it’s highly probably that they’ll be gone in time themselves.
I believe Jana Lanning in Anywhere But Here is a good personification of office politics gone wrong, because she’s the one in the weakest position. She didn’t do anything wrong and in fact suffered for doing right, but recent personal losses kept her from taking a stand in the right way and the right timing. The people that create these situations are masters at turning things against you even if you didn’t do anything wrong, and it’s exhausting to constantly defend your own character. Unfortunately, she found this out too late and suffered the consequences of crossing the wrong people simply by being who she was and not deferring to people doing things wrong. She was right and had proof of it, but she didn’t know how to present that truth in a combative work environment. That happens sometimes, and it’s awful. I think the worst offence in the world is to have to suffer for other peoples’ mistakes, and office politics are the ultimate example of that.
I think this is why eople tell me that they find Jana Lanning so likeable. She’s a good person that doesn’t deserve the hard knocks that come her way from people taking advantage of her shy nature, youth, and inexperience. She makes the same mistakes that all of us made in our early adulthood and we understand her confusion at why life is kicking her around. Reality is a hard teacher, and it’s the only one that can do the job once school leaves off. Remember the movie “St. Elmo’s Fire” from the 80’s? That strange, new world opening up is the exact thing that Jana faces, and we understand exactly where she’s coming from. She, like the rest of us, has to learn to find those gems of opportunity in the rubble of defeat to rebuild a new life from shattered dreams. In some ways, we may even relate to her right where we’re at, because life is always teaching us lessons.
So no, I didn’t start out in life exactly like Jana did. I actually did marry my college sweetheart, but I never made it to graduate school because I found other things that I believed were worth more in my life than higher education. I never struggled with depression, but I knew (and still know) many who do battle that demon, and I hope Jana’s struggle helps people with depression understand that this is a battle they can win if they stay in the fight. But yes, I did go through an office merger in my early years in the workforce, and I found myself prey to the power plays, albeit in much different circumstances. All I can say is that wisdom comes from experience, and I gained plenty in those few years.
And lest you think it’s impossible for poor Jana to face so much at one time, I call your bluff. Too much smashing my life to bits was the catalyst for my next novel, Splinter – but that’s one for a future blog entry. I’ll address it closer to the release date in mid 2013. Until then, enjoy Anywhere But Here and my other books - information on them and links to buy are on the other tabs of this website. I hope you find entertainment and inspiration in them.
That’s all today.
I'm not afraid to admit that there are just some things that I don't get. It's not a big deal. I accepted the fact that I don't have all the answers, and it's not my job/business to get them a long time ago. It was actually a huge relief because I felt it was ok to shrug and move on to other things that I do get. But still, there are some things that seem so common sense to me that - I don't know, either I don't get it or other people don't. You be the judge. For example:
1. When people see my birds and say "oh, so I guess these are your kids then?" No, they're BIRDS. I think the feathers and beaks make an obvious distinction. I never pretend my pets are surrogate children and I don't know why other people assume I do. I mean, take a look at this picture. Chloe is not only obviously a bird, but much better looking than her adopted mommy, don't you think?
2. Why people seem surprised by the weather. It gets hot in July and they say "OMG! It's so HOT!" Um, it's summer. It's supposed to be hot. Granted the 100+ degree weather of the past week has been abnormally above average but still, it is the time of year when it gets hot. Now if it snowed tomorrow I'd get it, but being surprised by seasonal weather is kind of like being surprised by the stink when you drive past the wastewater treatment plant. Especially on a 100 degree day.
3. Why people freak out about things they don't need to worry about. Tomorrow's impending "Internet Blackout" is a perfect example. People are freaking out over losing the Internet tomorrow, but every article I've seen on it has at least 1 link to free antivirus software that you can download and use to clean your machine. I wonder if any of them have continued to read to the end of the article where those links are located before they had their anxiety attack. My point: If you pay attention, the solution is usually presented right there with the problem. So as I've said so many times before: ALWAYS READ AND FOLLOW THE INSTRUCTIONS. And as a footnote, don't stop reading toward the end, no matter now high sentence #1 drove up your blood pressure. Because the last sentence in paragraph 5 might bring it back down again.
4. Why antihistimine/decongestants are harder to get now that you DON'T need a prescription any more. Thanks federal government, for slapping so many restrictions on it that you're treated like a criminal at the pharmacy if you need Claritin D. I thought the whole point of making things over the counter was to make them EASIER to get, but it was easier when I had a prescription for it. At least I could get it mail ordered from Medco then!
5. Why religious people act like it's a sin to get frustrated or angry at anything. I've heard a lot of people say "I won't tolerate profanity, violence, anger or unfairness at all!" Well, drop dead because you won't tolerate reality and there's no place in this world you can go to get away from it. Come on! What's up with this? Folks, I'm Christian but I'm not afraid to admit that reality sucks and things piss me off. In fact, some of my best reviewed writing has been done when somebody has royally pissed me off because I'm in touch with that ugly reality and forced to look within to find the right responses to it. I just don't get why so many people think they can simply reject the ugliness of the world and it will go away at their bidding. Christ died an awful, bloody, gruesome, violent death to secure our salvation. If the world will treat the Son of God like that, then what makes you believe it will treat you any better? To do so is arrogance, plain and simple. I'm just saying, it seems the lambs are outnumbering us lions in the world these days.
6. The fascination with being skinny. It seems to me that we should be more interested in being healthy than skinny. Of course, people hold themselves up to celebrities, but we forget their job is to entertain us and look good while they do it. Our responsibilities are to do all manner of other things to keep the world turning. For example, my job is to license qualified design professionals and (to a lesser degree, and by my own choice) write ebooks that entertain and inspire people. I don't get paid to look good - heck, I could be Jabba the Hut and do this stuff! But entertainers and models are paid to entertain us and make us forget reality for a little while. They are paid to look good and have personal trainers to help them excercise all day. We have other things to do all day. So eat right and excercise so you can stay in good health and keep doing the tasks that are set before you. But if you aren't paid to fit into skinny jeans and you have more booty than will fit in the pants, well, as long as you're healthy don't worry about it!
7. Why people get pissy when people unfollow/unfriend them. I had to pare down my Twitter followers last month due to limits they put on us, and there were 1 or 2 that didn't take it graciously. Then again, I unfollowed them because they weren't following me. So what's up with that?
8. Commercials for pharmaceuticals that say "ask your doctor about ..." Excuse me, I thought it was my doctor's job to know what medication I need, not mine. I'm not a doctor. Heck, half the time I can't even find a Band-Aid when I need one and you want me to ask my doctor about MEDICATION? That's funny.
9. Why does everybody want a piece of you when you're super busy, then once things settle down they disappear. My calendar was jammed pack for nearly 6 months, cumulating with last month when literally EVERYTHING happened. My phone wouldn't stop ringing, emails pouring in - I was so busy that I had to skip doing my mystery newsletter article last month. But go on vacation and then turn the calendar page to July and - nothing. I have 1 meeting mid month and that's it. Praise God things settled, but couldn't the insane activity of the last 6 months have been spread out a little bit better?
10. Gas prices. What's up with that? It's insanity.
Of course there are always things that make you wonder, but these are a few that keep popping up again and again. So if any of you can tell me if I'm missing something here then please, by all means enlighten me. Because on these 10 things, I just don't get it.
That's all for today. Have a great week.
If you work, you serve others. This is a simple fact of life. The issue is, who are you serving? Customer bases vary widely but there are some things that are universal no matter who you're working with, be it the utility company or a government agency. Here are a few tips to make those calls easier so you get the best (and fastest) customer service possible:
1. Check the website. Everybody has a website now - heck, even my PARROTS have a website, so it stands to reason that companies do too. These websites are updated frequently by experts and usually contain information that customers inquire about most. The purpose of the website is not only to provide services to the public, but to answer some of the most frequently asked questions and to provide guidance on issues that they receive the most calls and e-mails about. Checking the website might save you a call, or at least lead you in a direction where you can fine-tune your inquiries to get more specific information quickly and easily.
2. Plan your call carefully and be mindful of the schedule. If there's a major deadline within the next week, I can assure you that the call volume is high and you will be more likely to be placed on hold or wind out leaving a message that may not be returned for a while. Try to avoid deadline times by planning ahead or, if it can wait, calling a couple of days after the deadline passes. (You can usually find out if you're approaching a deadline time by following Suggestion #1). Another time to avoid are days immediately before or after a major holiday. Staffing is usually low before the holiday (when everybody wants to use those precious vacation days), and call volume is typically extremely high after a holiday (when everybody goes back to work). And Friday afternoons are usually bad too, because everybody wants a Friday off, so if there's leave to burn (in terms of "use it or lose it" days or comp time) that's usually when staff cashes in. The trick is that you want to call when there's maximum staffing, but not extremely high call volume - this increases your chances of getting a human being with correct answers quickly and easily.
3. Read the instructions all the way through. I understand that it's a knee jerk reaction to pick up the telephone once you hit a sentence you don't understand. Don't do it. Keep reading because the answer might be further down the page. I can't count the number of "oh yea, right there it is, I just quit reading" comments I've heard over the years.
4. NEVER pick up the telephone when you're panicked or heightened emotional state unless it's a medical emergency and you're calling 911. I kid you not - I've answered the telephone to full blown hyperventelation many times, and those are awkward calls. I have a psychology degree, but most people in administrative jobs studied areas like business management or accounting and they may not have been trained to "talk you off a cliff." Practice what I call the 10-10-10 rule: Take 10 slow breaths, count to 10 slowly, and wait 10 minutes. Then you'll be able to frame your question in a way that gets results and answers quickly and calmly.
5. Collect your questions and focus on the person you're talking to as they answer. As you puruse the website and read the instructions, make a list of your questions. Don't interrupt the person in the middle of a sentence with a follow up question before they finish answering the last question, or be one of those people that says "oh! One last question!" ten times. Because in those situations you usually wind out asking the same thing 3 times because you were so busy formulating new questions that you didn't hear the answer to the one you were asking.
6. Limit the hypothetical questions. If you say "what if I ..." or "suppose I were to ..." more than twice, then we suspect that you're looking for ways to duck the red tape (and we will look for ways to trap you into admitting it). Be straightforward and give us the facts, please.
7. Rephrasing the question 7 ways won't change the answer. And "call shopping" (where you realize it's a rotating line and keep calling to work your way through the staff to get the answer you want) is a trick we pick up on around the third call. Everybody in that department has been trained the same way and they'll give you the same answer. No matter how many times you call or how many ways you try to rephrase it.
8. Be respectful. What I mean is that if the person says "I don't know but I can send you to somebody that does know," immediately cease and desist from asking any more questions until you're routed to the right person. Because your "wait a minute, let me ask you this while I have you ..." questions will lead to more "I don't knows" and a delay in getting the information you need while you bark up the wrong tree. Nobody knows everything and despite the current push to "cross train," there are people that know some things better than others. They're trying to help you by sending you to the most knowledgeable person to answer your question. Let them do it.
9. Be patient. Not every question has an immediate answer and they may have to research what you're asking about. So don't wait until the last minute. Plan ahead.
10. Don't lie. I know this sounds silly, but people do call and outright lie about things, only to be embarassed when we use that annoying database at the computer we're sitting behind and catch them in it. That can lead to serious trouble in some situations, so please, no matter how embarassing or hurtful it is to your pride, just tell the truth. We will act with discresion and will do our best to help you - but don't say you mailed the check and it cleared last week when it's lying on the table in front of you. Because they'll look it up, see it didn't arrive, and the next question will be for you to send them a copy of the cancelled check to prove it. Awkward!
A lot of getting good customer service is to use discernment and good, old fashioned common sense in dealing with companies. Be courteous, professional, respectful and plan appropriately and you'll get the fastest and best customer service available. And really, these are good rules to apply to all of your relationships.
That's all for today.
I remember a day last summer when the members of our Sunday School class that attended early service came in late. It turns out that a lady passed out as the pastors and choir were processing out at the end of the service.
"She was lying there on the floor and everybody was staring at her," one man said. "I suggested that we call 911 , but everybody ignored me. Then another man walked in, saw her on the floor, said 'gee, someone should call an ambulance' and all of a sudden every cell phone came out." He chuckled. "I'd said that two or three times, but it took ten minutes and a remark from somebody they were willing to listen to before anybody helped the poor woman."
The lady was alright, but that comment made me think. It seems that all of us have either the Power of Knowledge of the Power of Authority. The key to making life easier is finding out which one you're gifted with and rolling with it.
Let me explain. Have you noticed that there are some people that everyone will follow to the end of the earth? Every word they say is gospel truth and nobody questions then (even in circumstances when they're dead wrong and people should know better). Most people call them "natural leaders" but the truth is that they have what I call the "Power of Authority." There's something about them that causes people to listen to and follow them. People with the power of authority seem to excel in positions like business, medicine, mental health, law, teaching and politics because people are drawn to them and to believing that what they say is truth. They may or may not really know their head from a hole in the ground, but there's something about their demeanor that attracts people to listen to them and do what they say. These are the ones that everybody asks for advice from. They lead and others follow, but you don't dare bring them down to the masses.
On the other hand, there are people like me. I get asked for information and directions more than any person I know. In fact, there were two occasions recently where a total stranger blew right past 10 people and came straight to me to ask for directions. The people with me even commented that they passed several others that could have helped them, but they seemed to target me. It's not just directions either - I get asked all manner of questions all the time. I even put something on my Twitter feed last night saying I had to find out what it was about me that inspired the inquisitiveness in people because I get pounded with questions more than anybody I know. I definitely have the Power of Knowledge, because people seem to target me as their source of information. Ah, but there is a line I better not cross. For example, if someone asks for directions and I say "here's the most direct route, but I know a better way that will bypass traffic," they'll hold up a hand and say "no, no. That's ok. I just want to know how to get there." (Obviously, it's happened many times.) They make it very clear that I'm not the boss of them. They just want information, thank you very much. They'll process and apply the information I provide the way THEY choose. People with the power of knowledge tend to excel in areas like administration, the arts, entertainment, managing money (accounting), and assistant positions where they're the brains behind the people with the Power of Authority to keep them in check while the world follows them. These are the people with the brains and insight that you want to collaborate with on your teams.
I'm not sure what elusive thing it is that determines whether you have the Power of Authority or the Power of Knowledge, but I do know that it's best to know which you have and to go with it. Because you aren't going to get the other no matter how hard you try. Trust me, I've never won an elected position - hell, I've never even been nominated. But I've slapped away so many invitations to serve on committees and in organizations that I've lost count. See, I'm invited, not elected. And that's a good way to know which you have.
There are other ways too. What happens when people ask you for advice? If they don't do it or if they immediately disregard it and do something completely different, you're a Power of Knowledge person (they were asking to collect information). If they do it, you're a Power of Authority.
Here's another one. What kinds of questions do people ask you? Do they ask you for advice and how to do things? You're a Power of Authority. Do they ask for general information or "do you know" or "have you heard of" type of questions? You're a Power of Knowledge.
And here's the best indicator: How often do people ask you for directions? If never or rarely (and they're so befuddled when you're done that they ask someone else), you're a Power of Authority. If your like me and you become the world's personal GPS the minute you leave your driveway, well, I think you get it.
It amazes me that personality tests seem to miss this critical component of personality, because it is important. It's a good indicator of how your personality meshes with your place in the world.
So, which type are you? Think it over. You might be surprised.
That's all today. More later.
Well, as irony would have it; it seems Rick's illness had a viral component that brought it out and I caught it yesterday. After a weekend with both of us sick, I realized that there are two rules for dealing with someone who's sick:
1. Never try to force feed them, especially if it has a gastrointestinal base. Believe me, whatever you fear might happen from not eating will be nothing compared to what will happen if you force them to eat; and
2. Don't pepper them with a million questions. People in general are too addicted to asking questions. Please please please - limit the questions as much as possible. You'd be surprised at how much you can discover for yourself if you put your brain on things for 5 minutes. In fact, this is a good overall rule even when everybody is perfectly healthy.
That being said, I will warn you that there is a virus going around and it's absolutely VICIOUS. Neither of us has been this sick in a very long time. We're healing, albeit slowly. This is definitely one that we (and our septic system) will remember for a long time.
Take care all, and take precautions. I know it's winter and illness is lurking but the proper precautions can save your grief. Wash hands, clean up, flu shots, and etc.
More later. Bye!
Somebody recently came by my office to read a letter they received protesting a clause in a law that states that only licensed funeral directors can sell caskets. The protest letter stated several reasons why the law is archaic and outdated and closed by stating “I don’t know why a person has to have an education and two years of experience to sell a box.”
“So, what do you think?” they asked.
“Well,”I replied, “when you put it that way, it does sound stupid.”
I know that closing statement was meant to make the point in a simple and logical manner, but I believe they oversimplified the case. Yes, it did sound stupid –but when I was given the larger context of the comment, it seemed to me that they were oversimplifying the entire case. It made me wonder if there weren’t huge issues being glossed over in an attempt to be witty.
I wonder how often this happens. Sometimes, people say things trying to make things sound simple, but they don’t realize how much they leave out in their efforts to simplify.
Do you know another time when I believe this happens? It’s when people say “you need to have a personal relationship with Christ. “ I don’t know how you feel about that statement, but for years, my response was “how the heck are you supposed to do that?” Even though I do better understand the meaning of this statement, it still strikes me in the same way as the “education and experience to sell a box” scenario. It skips the entire process and takes you straight to the end result. It’s like telling somebody to meet you somewhere out of town,
and refusing to give them a map. People need direction to make the journey. It’s great to know where you’re heading, but it’s useless if you don’t know the way. It gives you the end result with no hint or clue of where to find the train that leads to that destination.
As Christians, we all know that Christ is the foundation of our lives. We are supposed to build everything on our faith in Him. This means that we totally let go and allow Him to lead and guide our lives. So, how do you do this? In my experience, it’s been a two step process.
First, you have to acknowledge that you really aren’t in control of your life. People are control freaks, and we want to believe that life is totally in our hands. The problem is, it really isn’t. Control is an illusion. The truth is
that God is really in control, and He will keep bringing things into your life to remind you of that fact until you finally accept that you’re riding in a sailboat on His ocean, and the only thing you really can do is adjust your
sails. And heck, you don’t even own the boat. He’s loaning that to you to make the journey that He laid before you. You can make your plans and that’s ok – it’s even advisable– but remain flexible and aware that tomorrow may bring an unexpected detour.
Second, you must have an active prayer life. Yes, God does know everything, but it helps us to pray because in talking to Him, we’re able to open our eyes to our own cares and concerns. Talking to God not only brings
comfort, but it helps us to know ourselves, and to see what is really on our hearts. Christ died so we could communicate directly with God in prayer, and that privilege is our lifeline to Heaven. It’s how we get Divine knowledge about how to lead our Earthly lives. How does this happen? It happens because it opens the lines of communication with our Creator, and it gives the Holy Spirit – you know, that little voice that most people call “intuition” – a place to speak in your heart. Through prayer, God gives us insight to our lives and situations that we wouldn’t have on our own, and allows us to discern truth in times when it would be impossible by natural, worldly means. It isn’t magic by any means. Rather, it’s a heightened awareness of truth, and the only way to get it and keep it is through prayer.
This is how a personal relationship with Christ develops. It happens over time, as we stretch our faith muscles and tune in to the Holy Spirit working in and through us. It develops just like any other friendship develops, with time, dedication and effort.
Developing this personal relationship with Christ does have a lot in common with natural friendships. You will find over time that He speaks to you in ways that are unique to your personality. For example, I hear from Him
through thoughts and ideas that I know are of the Spirit. One person I talked to said they don’t hear it that way, but rather they see Him through how their thoughts or emotions change or shift on certain areas that they’re praying about. I’ve heard others say they hear from the Spirit by seeing changes in attitudes or situations they’re facing. He speaks to everybody differently because He speaks in ways that each individual understands best.
I know this isn’t a full explanation of what having a personal relationship with Christ means. I wonder if such a thing exists, because there is no one process for doing this. The journey is as unique as we are, and it wholly depends on who we are and how we communicate with our Creator. I just hope that these two first steps that I took to begin my own journey help you to see the starting point for your own. As you proceed in prayer, I believe you’ll find a better guide for the rest of the journey through the Holy Spirit.
Now as for the education and experience to sell a box – sorry, I can’t help with that!
Next Week: The devil – no friend of ours!
Hi all; I hope you're doing well and having a great week. I tried, I really did, but it just hasn't worked out so far.
The foot is healing, for which I am extremely grateful. I haven't been brave enough to get back on the treadmill yet. Maybe in another couple of days. Today is the first day I've gone the whole day without pain.
The rest of life, however, has been one for the "what the hell?" files (although that's not what we really call it but hey! I'm trying to maintain some sort of decency!). Work has been one thorny issue after another, all week long. I untangle one mess and here comes another. There must be some evil imp ravaging my cubicle. I think I beat most of it into submission today. *Hopefully,* and I say that in the "if the Lord wills and creeks don't rise" sense, I did manage to get things flowing properly, balls in other courts, and I made my final visit to the State House for a committee meeting for this session today. *Hopefully* As things have shown a tendency to unravel - or worse, to pull a phoenix and rise from the ashes - I'm not counting it done yet.
Then yesterday we got word that a friend at church lost her battle with pancreatic cancer yesterday. Don't worry, I'm not going to put you through those musings again. We went through this - oh wait! Exactly a year ago today, when a friend at my former workplace died of THE VERY SAME THING!! There's much I don't understand and this scary timing is one more thing on the heap. But I suppose faith is about accepting that you don't have the answers and being ok with the questions. Or something like that.
I'm trying to find out how things keep getting past me. I don't know stuff that I usually find out without even trying. For example: Did you know the new Transformer's movie is coming out on July 1st? I knew they were making one but had no idea it was done. I also didn't know that they moved a new deposit machine just up the hall from my cubicle, that several files I've been looking for are in the cabinet right next to my desk, that you can get Microsoft Office for iPads, that the new Pirates of the Caribbean movie came out last weekend, that "True Grit" was a remake, that they were thinking about extending the legislative session, or that there's an old wives tale about more people dying in the spring because of something with the sap in the trees (another one for the "what the...? files). I think I've been working too hard and too much. Yes, I've had problems with my mind wandering lately, but this is ridiculous. I definitely need to take a break this weekend. No writing, chores, errands, visiting, volunteering, or anything.
So here I sit with all these questions and more. Like why does my parakeet sing like a canary? Why does my computer smell like my perfume (that never gets near this machine)? How did Zack chew curtains that are nowhere near his cage? Why did Chloe growl at me when I got home? What is going on with this crazy, hot weather? And many, many more.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is life in the rabbit hole! Hmm. I sense inspiration for short stories in my future. Life like this is the catalyst for it.
Well, my brain is fried so it's time to go. I hope you have a Happy Friday tomorrow. Heck, I hope I have a Happy Friday tomorrow either. It's been a challenging week, but I'm not giving up on having at least one good day in it.