Early in my Christian experience, I thought that the Apostle Paul intended me to retreat from the world to spend all my time focusing on my interior life of prayer… Thankfully, the apostolic command to “pray continually” isn’t primarily about developing our devotional prayer life, even though that is important. It has much more to do with learning to pray our everyday life, particularly in the context of our work, where prayer may be the last thing on our minds.
I’ve always been a bit suspicious of those who paint too rosy a picture of the life of faith. Early in my Christian journey one of the popular evangelical sayings was that God has a “wonderful plan for your life.” Turns out, “wonderful” must have meant something entirely different than what I thought the word meant!
Hope was wired to be a working dog. Her Creator gave her remarkable energy and intelligence for the purpose of herding cattle. And she was either going to fulfill that purpose, or create havoc doing something else!
Keeping your head down at work — while perhaps unavoidable on occasion — is not a good, long-term posture. Instead, Psalm 111 reminds me that thankfulness—an upward orientation — is the key to a truly human life, to truly human work.
Seeing the genesis of our leadership as a seed is helpful in a number of ways.
The things we make wind up making and remaking us.
Work is like that. Not only is work something we do, but it invariably shapes who we become. That is another reason why our work is important to God.
Each of us has a history – personal, familial, organizational. Psalm 78 tells Israel’s history with stark honesty. No attempt is made to “spin” its story to make God’s people look good. The bulk of the psalm is a long litany of Israel’s failures despite God’s mercy and continued faithfulness. If for no other reason, I like this psalm because it reminds me that all my history can be faced. In a contemporary leadership culture that tends to hide its failures and weaknesses, this is refreshingly good news.
Today’s text describes the seed falling into good soil. So, what makes the soil good? As our last set of reflections suggested, part of the answer lies in our giving conscious, sustained and disciplined attention to Jesus’ way of life and leadership. However, this is not merely an exercise in acquiring leadership knowledge or technique. Jesus’ teaching challenges us at the core of our being as leaders.
Our task is to give witness to Jesus as Lord in the midst of the public square. As today’s text reminds us, despite our track record, abandoning the public arena is not an option for faithful disciples. In the context of each of our leadership responsibilities there is a public dimension to our faith. How are we to live it out?
There are times in leadership when we find ourselves isolated. Sometimes we find ourselves there of our own making. We’ve had to make some hard decisions with which everyone else strongly disagrees, and we feel alone. Sometimes it’s the result of others’ actions. We find ourselves marginalized politically or even have our organization “right-sized” out of existence. Where once we had colleagues and superiors who supported us, we now find ourselves isolated. As the Psalmist prays in today’s text: “Look and see, there is no one at my right hand; no one is concerned for me. I have no refuge; no one cares for my life.”