Tuesday, November 12, 2013

But I WAS clear!

I am helping to coordinate a class where students must register online and pay a tuition fee. There are a myriad of discount options available, including early bird, friend referral, and outside funding source options. Actually, I used to have two early bird discounts – one expiring in November and other expiring in December. In my head, I knew all the rules of how I intended the discounts to be applied. For example, the outside funding scholarship applies if the person has watched an online video, the early bird only counts if you pay at time of registration (not later in class), you can stack some discounts but not others, etc. In my head, everything was perfectly clear. In reality….it was a mess. Students took both early bird discounts at once, didn’t pay at time of registration, stacked discounts, and came up with all sorts of other combinations. The early bird problem was so bad that I had to remove the second discount, and I may or may not put it back once the first one expires. I was reminded that what is clear to ME is not always clear to others and that unless my expectations are explicitly and clearly stated, people will seldom be able to read my mind.

This is not the first time I have learned this lesson. In fact, it was explained to me a number of years ago by a team-building activity leader I have great respect for. He taught us the basics of a tag game that involved sitting on a person’s knee and simulating the action of flushing a toilet in order to un-freeze a teammate (don’t ask – it was wild). One of the first things that started happening was that people bent the rules that had clearly been stated at the beginning. After we had played for a while, the leader called us together and said, “Didn’t I tell you what the rule was? A full handle simulated flush was what I said, and most of you are barely sitting down and flapping your arm before you’re off to the next person. Now, if you are full-grown adults and doing this, how much more so are the kids that I am training you to teach going to? Don’t assume because you SAY something that people have actually HEARD you, nor that they are going to DO it." I am now finding out through my own experience that those words are just as true today as they were back then.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

Austin Flood Relief - Partnership in Action

Today I served with some of my friends at the flood relief warehouse distribution center in south Austin. With large amounts of donations pouring in the doors, Austin Disaster Relief Network has struggled to find enough people to help them organize everything. Piles of clothes, linens, and shoes were scattered around the floor and grouped into large categories, but finding a specific size or type of item was like finding a needle in a haystack. Enter: the volunteers. Many of us worked to organize the overwhelming amount of material, but I kept noticing a group of men who would appear occasionally and then disappear back outside. I poked my head out to see what they were doing, and I was confronted with stacks of 2x4 wood and the whirring of circular saws. They were building tables! Sturdy, well-designed, simple, plywood tables. The tables were large and wide, such that you could stack at least 4 rows of clothes deep. They also built a support system for a horizontal bar to span across the top of the table and hold hangers. There must have been 10-15 of these tables in the room by the end of the afternoon - they just kept pumping them out!

I was most impressed with the way that one job can use a multitude of skills. There is always a place for you to serve, no matter what your gifting is. I imagine that a husband skilled in woodworking came to help organize clothes, took one look at the place, and said, "you know what you need are some tables. Some good, sturdy, big tables. That will give you 2-3 times more storage than you have right now. And I know how to make them - just let me grab my tools!" What a great example of how the different members of the body of Christ complement each other. One area supplies what the other is lacking, and together we accomplish the goal.

What about you? Have you seen a situation where a team of people with vastly different skills all partnered together?

Once Upon a Time

My roommate enjoys watching the TV show "Once Upon a Time," and I occasionally poke my head in to join her. One of the episodes we watched recently involved a character trapped in a cage across a large chasm from their friends. To make the rescue, each friend had to share one of their deepest secrets with the group. The audience already knew some of the secrets, but not all of them. I stood there glued to the TV screen as characters admitted that they never felt they could love again until they met so-and-so, that they didn't want to face the pain of a restarting a relationship they thought was over, and that they had hidden a life-threatening disease from their spouse until it was cured. The moment was very poignant and powerful - the actors did a fantastic job. It made me think: what is it about knowing someone deeply that is so attractive to us as humans? Fighting battles is exciting too, but there is something about seeing people reveal the secrets of their hearts and then extend grace and love to each other in response that makes us yearn for the same. Opening your heart is risky, for sure, but there is no substitute for the kind of relational intimacy it brings. Although the presence of God is only truly safe place for hearts to be completely open, my hope is that my own life and presence would offer a little bit of the love and protection of God by always being a safe place for others to rest.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Welcomed vs. Safe

One of the things I have been musing on recently is the difference between feeling welcomed and feeling safe. I have found that with certain people, I can know that I am always welcome to be around them, but I do not feel safe to be myself in their presence. I always have an open door to their place, but then while there I find that my forays into being vulnerable and more open with them are met with impulsive responses that indicate my thoughts have not truly been heard.

This is an interesting dichotomy to me.

I know that not all friendships will be as close as others, but I would prefer that my heart not feel like it is being exposed to an abrasive north wind every time I interact. Relaxing in response to a welcoming fire but then throwing up wind shields soon thereafter gets tiresome rather quickly, and I have never really liked the cold...

Is Blogging Dead?

As I was thinking about my lapsed blog this morning, I started reflecting on the way social media has evolved even since I started this blog three years ago. I don't subscribe to twitter, instagram, or really anything else other than Facebook and this blog (and Pinterest, but that was a short-lived spurt of enthusiasm/boredom on my part over a past Christmas break), but I have seen my generation become increasingly enthralled with sound bites and information bites. This enables us to think extremely quickly and assimilate large amounts of information together (or so we think), but we rarely have time to sit down an read an entire news article or blog post. Our attention span is shrinking rapidly, mine included. Thus, I was led to think about whether this idea of a personal blog is even relevant or useful anymore. Bloggers who post around a certain topic (e.g. fashion, cooking, or photography) I imagine are still popular, because the information they share is useful and interesting. But personal blogging? Perhaps not so much. Even I (shamefully) would sometimes rather just look at a small collection of Facebook photographs about a friend's recent trip than read an entire blog post.

What are your thoughts? Is personal blogging a thing of the past? If not, what are the keys to having a successful personal blog?