Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Strengths Finder

The supportive response to my sermon Sunday has been overwhelming.  (If you don't know what I'm talking about and are interested, then you can check it out here:  www.pccwiredlive.net.)  Thank you for your kind words, affirmation, and love.  I've had several requests to go more in depth on different aspects of my message.  I maxed out my sermon time on Sunday, and still couldn't cover everything in 25-30 minutes.  So, there's more I'd like to say.  Over the next week or so, I hope to tackle some such issues on this blog.

The first and most light-hearted is the Strengths Finder assessment.  Our staff did this years ago, and I didn't find it very helpful.  I was in a funky, unhealthy place, and my results were skewed.  I re-took it this past fall and have since found it to be very helpful.

Sunday I did a humorous bit, which seems to be the most memorable part of the message, on my internal conflict with the strengths of "competition" and "empathy."

"StrengthsFinder measures the presence of 34 talent themes.  Talents are people's naturally recurring patterns of thought, feeling, or behavior that can be productively applied.  The more dominant a theme is in a person, the greater the theme's impact on that person's behavior and performance."  (education.gallup.com)

Unlike some personality tests with which you're put in one of four boxes, this assessment has 34 themes.  You get your top five in order of dominance.  The chance of having the same five, especially in the same order, as someone else is extremely rare.

Here are my top five:

1.  Achiever--I'm driven and have a strong need for achievement.  This correlates with that hard work value I discussed on Sunday.

2.  Learner--I love to learn and am drawn to the process of learning. 

3.  Individualization--I am interested in the unique qualities of each person and frustrated by generalizations or types (hence my attraction to the StrengthsFinder versus those personality tests that put you in one of four boxes:).)  I like to hear each individual's story and tailor make my gifts and approaches to fit them.

4. Empathy--I can put myself in others' shoes, feeling what they feel and seeing things from their perspectives.

5.  Competition--I like to compete, and I like to win.

So, looking at these it's no surprise I did well in grade school, college, and seminary.  I like to achieve, to learn, and to compete against my fellow students.

It's also no surprise that I'm a pastor, particularly one who thrives in one-on-one and small group settings.  I love learning the individual qualities of people in a small group or pastoral care setting.  I love listening to them and feeling how they feel.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

My First Love

I love books, bookstores, and libraries!  I know I'm not alone.  Some of us fall in love with books as kids, and it's a life-long love affair.  I spent summers reading book after book after book.  I remember parents constantly asking me to pick up my books and take them to my room.  But I knew I'd be reading it again in ten minutes, so what was the point of picking it up?!

My love affair with books continued until some point in college.  It was still there when I started college.  The first class my sister and I attended was Dr. Ausband's Literature 201, a survey of old Brit lit.  At the end of the first week, he asked us to stay after class.  I'd never been asked to stay after class before, and my barely 18-year-old self was pretty nervous that the head of the English department was requesting such an audience.  My nerves quickly melted away as he asked, "Where did you two go to high school?  Where did you study your freshmen year of college?  I've never had such prepared students."  

Well, we went to PHS, where Kay Meredith trained us well.  This was our freshmen year; thanks to Mrs. Meredith's AP class, we already had credit for freshmen English I and II.  We told Dr. Ausband of our intentions to major in English.  He smiled and asked, "Why?"

"Because we love reading."

By my junior year in college, I'd read so much my love of reading was waning.  My roommate used to say that if she read as much as I did, her eyeballs would fall out of her head and roll down the hallway in our apartment.  

By the time I graduated, I couldn't bear the thought of reading a book.

A year later I started grad school in the form of seminary.  It was time to read a lot again, and it was a struggle.

I had a baby the day after I graduated seminary, so reading was not an option for a while.

Then, when that baby was a little over two-years-old, I had the space, energy, and time to start reading again.  It was great.  And I was very pregnant.  I enjoyed a couple months of reading before starting the sleep-deprived cycle of parenthood all over again. 

Now, that second baby is two-and-a-half, and there is time to read again.  And I love it again.  

I feel a little guilty; I should challenge myself more with what I read.  I once read a Shakespeare play a week and hefty Victorian novels in a couple of weeks.  Now, I read words and sentence structures and ideas that are easy to comprehend, much to my husband's dismay.  He also loves to read, but for him reading is an exercise of the mind; for me it's a luxury for the mind.

Here's some of what I've read in the last year.

What books do you recommend?

BTW, a couple times I've attempted a women's summer book club.  I've loved the gatherings, but they've been small and sporadic.  If anybody wants to partner to try it again this year, then let me know.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Tutus and T-balls

I entered parenthood with fear and trembling.  Sammy and I were intentionally married and childless for several years.  At one point my friend, Beth, asked me why.  I said, "We're selfish and lazy, and we want to enjoy being selfish and lazy for a little longer."  

Turns out, I'm still selfish and lazy (I won't speak for my husband.).  And I don't know what I'm doing as a parent.  I knew I didn't know what I was doing before I got pregnant.  I knew parenting was going to test my patience, resolve, integrity, and emotional and physical capacities.  It's been all I'd thought it'd be and more:)  

I was not good at soothing screaming babies.  I am not good at multi-tasking, and can all three of my family members please stop talking to me at the same time?!

But, I have been excited about this part since I first found out I was pregnant five years ago--tutus and t-balls.  I wrote this parked in my non-mini-van at t-ball practice.

Tutus and T-balls

ballet barres and batters' boxes
dance studios and dugouts
hands overhead and hands on knees
chasse and swing

tights and tiptoes
gloves and grounders

Capezio and Louisville Slugger

class and team
teacher and coach

Unearthing Talent
Learning Skills
Working Together
Making Friends

Blissful ignorance of who's
good and bad,
better and best.

Fun is had.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

What is "good"?

Good Friday

Good News = Gospel

"It is not good that the man should be alone."

"We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."

"No one is good but God alone."

"Good" is an ordinary word.  If I were grading a paper, then I would suggest the student find a better adjective than "good"; it doesn't communicate much.

Yet it's a word that communicates much within Christianity.

God alone is good.  His death on Friday is good.  His message, his story is good news.  His creation is good, yet it's not good for man to be alone. 

"Good" is a loaded word here.  I suspect we attribute all sorts of meanings, ideas, and feelings to the word when we read it in the Bible.  I worry that our attributes are not congruent with what the Bible means.

This comes to mind most often when someone quotes Romans 8:28, "We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose."  This idea is sung in a popular worship song with the words, "He makes all things work together for my good."  When we speak or sing these words, what do we have in mind, and do our thoughts correspond with what we know of God?

For example, there are times in the Bible when God commands armies to fight, and they get beat, which means lots of people die.  What good is God working out there?  Is it good for the wives and children of the fallen soldiers?  Maybe there's a sort of collective good in stories of war.  But collective good, and "he makes all things work together for my good," are not the same thing.  

I've written before of how I'm careful what words I utter to God in worship.  The above is one of those song lyrics I don't sing.  Specifically, I leave out the word "my."  That personalizes and individualizes a declaration of truth that I'm uncomfortable personalizing and individualizing.  

I will sing and declare that God works together for good.  I don't suppose to know what that "good" is, or that it will necessarily be good for me.  I am just as vulnerable to being on the losing end of collective good as anyone else.  

While "good" is a word I throw around casually and with little thought, it's one I need to ponder and study more in the Bible.  I suspect God has a different understanding of what is "good" than I do.