Searching for redemption… I mean a job.

 

Job hunting ways methods

I’m currently looking for full time employment. I’ve been thinking about the connection between the redemptive part of our faith as Christians and how they reflect the job search process. Here’s what I mean (and this isn’t meant as an exact allegory, so don’t chew me up too fast):

Stage 1: Loss (Kicked out of the garden)
Whether you lose your job through a firing, you’ve reached the end of your contract, or you leave, there can be a sense of loss. We depend on our jobs to provide the means by which we pay for the roof over our head, the food on our table, the clothes on our backs and a myriad of other bills. If we leave of our own volition or don’t really care about being fired, maybe we’re not that stressed, at least for a while. Eventually though, most of us will need to find a job. Eventually, panic may sent in, realizing that you need to cut back on your lifestyle. Maybe it starts out being a bit fun; a challenge. But then as months go by, you start realizing that you’re going to run out of money and are worried how you will eat. If you have others who depend on you this feeling is intensified.

Stage 2: Despair (Sin enters the world)
The longer the time goes on and the pressure increases you start to feel down about yourself. Your confidence suffers, you don’t feel like you have a plan,. or the plan your have isn’t working. Maybe you don’t even know what kind of job you’re qualified for and what your skills even are. You start to get up later in the morning and going to bed later, feeling crappy. You stop caring about yourself because your self image is destroyed or seriously damaged. You start loosing or gaining weight, you have less energy and can’t look people in the eye anymore. You scan the want ads online and in the paper, send out resume after resume, but heard nary a peep back. Once in a while you might get a call for an interview, but are hardly in a mental state to perform properly so after what you assume to be a poor performance, you beat yourself up even more, hence continuing the cycle.

Stage 3: Hope (Christ enters the world)
Eventually you realize that what you’re doing isn’t working. You realize that you need to treat yourself better, you need to work on you, if you’re going to have any hope of getting a decent job to pay the bills. You shave for the first time in weeks, you start wearing nicer clothes everyday, and you start doing actual research into how to get a job. Maybe you enlist the help of a career counsellor, find a good book, start talking to some friends. You start to feel better about who you are on the inside and start to figure out all the various skills that God has given you. For the first time in a long time you start to feel a sense of hope.

Stage 4: Balance (Christ ascends)
Eventually you realize that finding a job, particularly a well paying one, is a process, and a long one at that. You start to realize that you can’t just expect to walk into the perfect job right away and that this is largely a numbers game. A precision targeted numbers game, but a numbers game all the same. So, you settle into a realistic view of hope that says there will be trials and strife and difficulties, but that is not a reflection on who God made you to be, but simply part of the redemptive process at work. It’s not an event, it’s a process.

Stage 5: Final redemption (Christ returns)
One glorious day you get the phone call, go in the for the interview, you’re on top of your game and you get the job. You go from a weeks worth of money left to being Mr (or Mrs/Miss/Ms) middle class moneybags. Your spirits soar and you feel like you can take on the world.

For me, I’m somewhere between stage 2 and 3 at the moment. I’m slowly starting to feel the hope, but trying to keep it balance with the reality that I need a job in the 120 days or so, or we will start feeling the financial pinch.

Looking forward to reaching stage 5 as soon as possible.

Chasing Francis [book review]

336693 w185

The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes
– Marcel Proust

It’s not often that I read a book and want to immediately read it again. It is even rarer that I want to work through the study guide in the back of the book. Chasing Francis had both effects on me, it’s a truly wonderful book. The author Ian Morgan Cron described his work as being wisdom literature, which he describes as a “delicate balance of fiction and nonfiction, pilgrimage and teaching”. It is a very fast read, until like my friend who recommended it to me, you feel led to stop and journal all the wonderful insights that are being generated. I did not do that, I had a hard time putting it down to journal, hence why I am going through it again. I read half of it in a weekend and the second half over the course of the next week, finishing it at 12:30am on evening.

The plot of the story revolves around Chase Falson, a burned out evangelical pastor of a mega church in the North Eastern USA. His faith is on rocky ground and the elders force him to take a break. Despondent, Chase contacts an Uncle who is a Franciscan Friar, who is a well known Spiritual Director. His Uncle invites him to come spend time with him in Italy. Chase takes him up on his invitation and thus begins his pilgrimage experience.

Along the way he learns about Francis’s theology and rule of life. His embracing of poverty, but his almost paradoxical love of the arts for their ability to demonstrate God’s beauty. He travels from the richest parts of Italy, from beautifully ornate churches to the slums where abandoned aids patients go to die in the loving arms of Franciscan sisters.

Along the way Chase meets a colourful cast of characters from monks to nuns to drug addicts and musicians. You might think the endgame of the novel is to have Chase become Catholic, but such is not the case. I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s actually the part of the novel that is both the most dissatisfying, but I suspect, the most realistic.

The cover of my edition includes a quote from Mark Batterson that reads “Reading this book may cause a total overhaul of the way you think about what it means to be a followers of Christ” and I agree. Anabaptists will really enjoy this book as they will see many aspects of their movement in this book. For those who want more, the book is peppered with suggestions for further reading.

As you follow Chase on his pilgrimage, you will be led on your own to reconsider some fundamental aspects of your faith. It is a beautiful book and there is much wisdom to mine from its pages.

As I work through the study guide, which has some compelling and difficult questions, I will post my reflection here on the blog and take you with me on my pilgrimage. I consider this part of the healing process I announced here.

Rating: 4.9/5
 $14.99 USD
Zondervan

Cultivating a talent

writing

I have a friend who discovered last year that he could paint. I don’t mean he can draw cute stick figures, I mean the dude can paint beautiful, awe inspiring paintings. I admit to being a bit envious. I have other friends who are beautiful singers and musicians, as well as talented and successful music producers. I know others who are wonderful designers and craftsmen.

Creatives are fascinating to me. Whether they are painters, musicians, actors, dancers, singers, or writers, I am in awe of anyone who discovers their talent, hones it through sacrificial practice and increases the beauty in the world.

I wish I had such a talent. In my teens I was a dancer and a magician. Later I was an actor and eventually discovered I was a decent writer (my first college diploma is in Corporate Communication). If I had one creative talent, it might be writing. I’m told I’m decent at it, but I don’t know. If I have any skill it’s because I’ve learned by ear. Until I took Koiné Greek last year, I barely knew a verb from a noun and almost always need to look up what an adverb is). The problem is that writing takes time to read and therefore it takes time to have an impact. You can hear music without effort, or see a painting without needing much time (except perhaps to absorb it fully). You can see a beautiful dance in as short as a few minutes or as long as a few hours; the same for acting.

Writing takes more effort to consume. Yes, there are beautiful short poems, or even wonderfully written blog posts (though very few I think are written with beautiful writing being on the list of priorities), but truly excellent writing is difficult. I don’t just mean the message being conveyed, but the words chosen. I’ve read inspiring tales of old school newspaper editorialists agonizing for an afternoon over one word and still not being satisfied). Most blogs, including mine, have a tendency to devolve into depositories for mental dumps. You don’t always see careful planning and execution like you would (or should) expect from a long form essay. Listening to bloggers on podcasts they simply deal with this reality by not caring. Since blogging is a more immediate medium, they think typ-o’s and grammar matter less.

But it does. I hate reading through a post and finding a typ-o, it can ruin the whole flow of the piece. Worse yet, sometimes you can’t tell if it’s a typ-o because it actually is a word – just not the word you intended!!! (In a church bulletin once, I typed Jesus’ Pubic Ministry, instead of public).

So, instead of wishing I was a musician, a painter, or an actor, I’m trying to focus on becoming a better writer. The prevailing wisdom these days says we have to practice for 10 000 hours to really master a skill. I don’t know if this is true and I’m not about to keep track of hours, but it seems reasonable. Mind you, practice doesn’t make perfect, imperfect practice simply reinforces imperfection. You need to know what “perfect” looks like, or at least have an example of what “better than me” looks like. In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis wrote that “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line”. While he was discussing apologetics, the concept holds true for cultivating talents.

So, over the next many months there are a few books I want to read or re-read. Top of the list of Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, Zinsser’s On Writing Well, Trenga’s The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier, Adler’s How to Read a Book, Booth’s The Craft of Research and WIlson’s Wordsmithy . Also, as boring as it sounds, I’d like to read Turbian’s A Manual for Writers (I love style guides). I also want to keep reading a variety of fiction and non-fiction across multiple genres to keep me fresh and to broaden my exposure to different styles of writing.

Some of these books are focussed on writing as a whole, while others are focussed on properly formatting a single sentence. I want to be really good at writing. I want to be able to point to something and say that’s mine and be able to see how’s it’s improved over what I did the month or year before.

Good writing matters and just because my primary outlet is a blog, is no excuse not to steadily improve the quality of the writing.

What talent are you cultivating in your life? What are you doing to practice and improve as time goes on?