The miracle(s) of Hanukkah

When the Maccabees went to rededicate the Temple they discovered there was only enough oil for one day. This was a problem, because the Temple menorah had to be lit all the time. Making the oil was very difficult and would take at least a week to prepare more. It has been said that it was a miracle that the one bottle of oil that they found was enough to keep the flame burning until more was made.

I think it is a miracle that they went ahead and lit the lamp anyway.

They knew that they didn’t have enough oil and yet they still did what they had to do. They didn’t wait until they had a backup supply in order to get started. They knew how important it was to have that lamp going to honor God.

How many of us hold back, waiting until we have enough to get started? The Maccabees trusted God. They didn’t expect a miracle to occur. They lit the lamp anyway.

Certainly someone was at the task of making more oil. God kept things going until humans could take over. It isn’t that God made that oil last for years. It lasted just long enough until the new supply was ready. It isn’t as if they stopped making the oil when they noticed that it was still going after a few days. They kept on, fulfilling their part of the task. Each did their part – God with a miracle of making the original oil last, and people with their work of making more oil.

This reminds me of the story of the prodigal son. He started back towards his father, and his father ran the rest of the way to him. This is how God treats us. If we make an effort to go towards God, God will more than make up the difference. But we have to do our part too. We have to get started.

We can’t sit around and wait for God to take care of all of our needs. We have to put in the effort. But we also have to use the gifts that God has given us and not hoard them up. We have to trust God and do our part as well.

People aren’t pieces – on management

Don’t ask an employee an opinion if they can’t say no. It is a waste of time and fools them into thinking that management cares. When they realize that their answer meant nothing and wasn’t considered, they will feel betrayed. Then they won’t trust anything else that comes from management, and the team isn’t a team anymore.

Sometimes the employee realizes that the only answer that is acceptable is “Yes, that is a great idea!” even if they know it is a terrible one. Sometimes it is simpler to go along and pretend that it is going to work out even if you know from years of experience that it is not. If you argue, you are the squeaky wheel, and you won’t get grease, you’ll get the axe.

Now, nobody wants a curmudgeon. Management doesn’t like an employee who fights against change just because it is change. But we all hate “Yes-men” as well. We hate people who agree to anything just to suck up. So there has to be a middle ground.

Working together on a project as a group is important. We all have to be rowing in the same direction if we want the boat to go straight. We’ll be dead in the water if the people doing the rowing (the workers, not the management) don’t know where they are going. If they feel betrayed and lost enough, they might be actively working against the change. It is up to the leader to earn the trust of the team, rather than just crack the whip.

New managers would do well to take time to get to know the rhythms and patterns of the departments they are assigned to lead. If they have never done the job that their team does, they need to do it. They need to see for themselves what works and what doesn’t. They also need to show the team that they know what they are talking about. No team member trusts a manager who gives directions who doesn’t know how to do their job.

If the manager has done the job that their underlings are doing, but at another building, she needs to come at it with fresh eyes. Different franchises do things different ways, even if they are supposed to do them the same. Sometimes the different ways are better. Sometimes they make more sense for that location. Saying “But we did it this way at my old place” will only get more pushback, because you aren’t there anymore.

One of the fastest ways to ruin trust is to start making big changes right away without consulting the people who have been there a long time. They know from experience what will work and what won’t. They are also the people who are going to have to implement those changes, so they need to be in agreement with them or they won’t get done. If they can’t understand them, they will be unable to do them. If the new changes are impossible to do then they won’t happen either. Management can’t know what won’t work if they don’t allow employees to be honest, or do the same job as the employee. You can’t change a boat’s direction midstream without people falling into the water and drowning.

It is important to remember that people spend more time at work than they do at home. Most of the hours spent at home are asleep, so they don’t count. 40 hours a week with people you didn’t choose to be with is hard. Changes made to the workflow, environment, or polices at the workplace are far-reaching. They affect the morale and psyche of the employees, especially if they have been there a long time. It is the same as going into a person’s house and redecorating without their permission. They won’t know where anything is. They won’t feel settled. They won’t know their place. Then, instead of improving workflow, you’ve just halted it.

Big changes can result in trauma. Trauma occurs when something huge and unexpected happens that feels unfair and unjust. Everything that you knew to be true is now up for grabs. Nothing makes sense. There is a sense of betrayal and loss of trust. People who are experiencing trauma feel like ships lost at sea, with no guidance and no security.

A good manager, like a good captain of a ship, gets everybody working together and in the same direction. It takes time to build up that level of trust. People don’t respect the title or the position. They respect the person – and they can’t respect what they don’t know. They need to know that you are fair, you can be trusted, and you know what you are asking them to do. They need to know that the changes you are asking them to implement are necessary and helpful and not arbitrary. They need to know that their opinion, experience, and input matters. Mostly, they need to be treated as unique and important people, and not cogs in a machine. People aren’t pieces.

Don’t go changin’

One of the worst things a new person can do is start to change things.

Perhaps your way is better. Perhaps the way you did it at your old place was smarter. But suddenly changing things at your new place when it affects everybody else isn’t smart at all. This is especially true if you start changing things without asking anybody else for their opinion.

Say we are all rowing a boat together, and a new person jumps in and starts calling out a different cadence. Or brings a different kind of oar. Or drops the anchor in the middle of the race. It is going to mess everything up. It is going to make the whole thing stop.

It is OK to ask, or suggest, or recommend. It isn’t OK to just do it.

Even if you’ve been there a long time, don’t make sudden changes if it affects other people. If it affects your work area and nobody else works where you are, then have at it. If other people use that space, then don’t.

Sometimes it may seem like we “are doing it this way because we’ve always done it this way.” Sometimes we may be. But sometimes there is a rule that you don’t know about because you’ve not been there long enough to know that rule.

Sometimes people will push back not because of the idea, but because of how it is presented. You have to warm people up to a change. You have to include them. You have to think about their feelings.

It doesn’t matter if the idea is a good one if people aren’t willing to put their energy behind it. Surprising people with sudden change will never result in their support.

The result isn’t more important than the people. If you leave the people out of the equation, you will make a far bigger mess than the one you were trying to fix.

Rocks and life.

Good habits are like the reverse of water wearing away at a stone.

If we are intentional and mindful about our lives we will create something really amazing. Good habits are like building a cathedral. Each stone, one at a time, is placed upon another. There is a plan to it and a lot of hard work. It isn’t built overnight, and it isn’t built by accident. It requires a lot of focus and discipline.

When we are intentional about our lives, every little bit counts and every little bit works towards a goal. We are building something amazing and strong.

If we are not intentional about our lives, those stones will end up being more like a field of rocks.

They will cause us to trip.

They will make the field unable to be used to produce a harvest.

Consider this – a stone, left untouched, is just a stone. But with vision and focus and hard work, over the course of several years, can result in an amazing sculpture like Michelangelo’s “David”. Perfection takes a plan, a lot of work, and time. It doesn’t happen on its own.

So how can we be intentional? What we read counts. What we do to take care of our bodies counts. Any classes count – whether a normal course of study or extracurricular.

It may seem like a little bit here and there. But over time, it amounts to a lot. Make it count.

New work practice

I just realized a fabulous practice. All the whining and complaining my coworkers do used to drive me up the wall. Now I see it as an awesome test.

You can’t grow if you are sheltered. If you spend your whole life insulated and protected, you’ll never mature or get strong. This is true mentally, physically, spiritually.

I was at a retreat recently and was given this meditation. If you are in a rowboat in a lake and a powerboat goes blasting by, you can get upset or you can ride it out. It is what you do with it that matters. If you get upset then you are just making it worse.

I used to think that it would be nice to not have any powerboats on my lake. I’m thinking Rolling Stones here – “Hey, you, get offa my cloud”.

I’m stuck here for 40 hours a week listening to people bitch and whine about everything. Lots of complaining. Lots. From the staff. About the staff. About the patrons. About their husbands. About their children. About everything. All they do is complain, and they don’t do anything to make their lives better.

They are “letting off steam” and I’m the one getting burned.

It gets old. I’ve pointed out that if all we do is talk about negative stuff, then negative stuff is all we will see. We have to look for the positive. This advice works for about ten minutes and then it is forgotten.

If you want to get stronger, you have to test yourself. To strengthen your balance and your ankles, do tree pose. If you do mountain pose you won’t get any benefits. You have to stand on one leg. You have to challenge yourself.

So being around all this complaining is a test. How to listen without engaging. How to be there but not really be there.

I can’t solve their problems. They have to do it themselves. They have to see them as problems first. The longer I try to deflect or dissipate their anger, fear, frustration, the more I’m delaying their realization that they are causing their own problems.

Jesus tells us to love our enemies. He says that if we just love the nice people, what good is that? Anybody can do that.

So the trick is to love the bad situation, the complaining, the whining. Be loving. Don’t fight it, don’t resist it. Don’t join it, either.

This doesn’t mean I don’t want to go rowing on a nice placid lake every now and then either. I don’t enjoy being the calm one amidst the chaos. But I have to do something with this reality.

I’m not the only person to notice this. There are a lot of people who have worked there who feel that there is a bunch of negative energy here. Perhaps the fact that there is a large sinkhole on the property is part of it. One friend says there is paranormal activity. Whatever, the reason, the result is the same. And I’m trying to find something good about this. It is either that, or join it, and I’m not hot on that.

“I’m sorry” – on forgiveness.

There is a difference in saying

“I’m sorry.”
or

“I’d like to apologize for…”
or

“I’m sorry that you felt hurt when I….”

They reflect different degrees of admitting responsibility. They reflect different degrees of accepting how the other person has been hurt by your actions.

There is the true sincere apology statement, and then there is the one where the person understands the social obligation of at least acting sorry. One is real, the other is fake. Don’t be mislead. Even saying “I’d like to apologize for” doesn’t mean anything. The person would like to apologize, but isn’t actually doing so.

And worse, saying sorry doesn’t really even mean anything. If you hammer nails into a tree, and then pull them out, there are still holes there.

Expecting the victim to forgive can actually revictimize her. It puts the burden on her, instead of the abuser. It minimizes her feelings. It glosses over the reality of her pain and loss.

If there has been no apology, no restitution, then there is no closure or healing. Even if there has been an apology or restitution, then is no guarantee that closure or healing has taken place. Once a person has been harmed by another person, sometimes saying “sorry” won’t fix it, and the damage is permanent, especially if the offender has a habit of repeatedly hurting people.

It isn’t fair to the victim to expect her to forgive at all.

Sure, Buddha says that holding on to anger is like drinking poison and hoping the other person will die. Sometimes you have to forgive so you can go on with your life. But forgiveness comes when it comes, and no sooner.

Saying “Aren’t you over that by now?” isn’t kind, or helpful.

Saying “But have you forgiven him in your heart?” makes no sense. What about the liver? Is it OK to still hold some resentment there?

It is the same as getting frustrated with someone who is grieving. Grief takes time, and there isn’t a fixed amount. It takes as long as it takes.

I think people are nervous around grief, or unforgiveness, or anger, because it frightens them. They want to rush right ahead to the happy bit, where all is good and everybody is loving and kind. That Hollywood ending isn’t real. That’s why it is in the movies.

Movies don’t show reality. Sadly, a lot of us have used movies as our role models. This is why a lot of us are in pain. A lot. Our reality never matches up to that reality, and we feel like we are doing something wrong.

Working through feelings is a long process, and our society doesn’t give a lot of help along the way. You have to process your pain, just like how a cow chews its cud. You have to work on it, and wait, and work on it a little more, and wait. You have to transform it into something else. Cows transform grass into energy for their muscles, and then milk.

There is a sort of alchemy here.

Trying to take shortcuts on the process only results in it not really being processed. It will come out half way, unfinished, lumpy. It will come out sideways, if it comes out at all. Sometimes it will get stuck inside, with little jagged bits poking into your soft parts, just causing more pain.

Take as long as you need.

You don’t have to forgive to the extent that you let the abuser hurt you again. You don’t have to forget.

It helps if you can move on, where this rock of grief and pain doesn’t define you, doesn’t limit you, doesn’t keep you stuck in one place.

Work on it. Chew on it. Draw. Paint. Write. Go for a walk. Take your anger with you.

You aren’t running away from your anger and pain and loss, you’re using it as fuel. You’re transforming it into something useful and necessary. It takes a while. It takes as long as it needs to take.

Write it out, and the yoke.

Sometimes I write to get into a problem. Sometimes I write to run away from it.

I process information by writing. I learn a lot. It is paradoxical. I am not writing things down. I am pulling them down into a language I can understand. I will often write a question down and pry at it from different perspectives in order to find out the answer. It is always surprising to me.

But them sometimes I need to be quiet and just be with the question. I need to actually live through the experience rather than trying to document it as it happens.

I’m trying to do this with my abuse as a child. I’m tired of continually facing these doors and walls in my life. I’m tired of these trials. I’ve really worked hard recently, and I’m just tired right now. Sometimes I want to sit down and just cry rather than work on it and be brave. Sometimes I would rather be blissfully ignorant.

Sometimes when I do decide to work on a problem, I don’t know whether to lean into the problem or push at it really hard. So I wait and I pray and then I find myself doing whatever it is that I should be doing.

A little bit of the disease will heal you. That is how antibiotics work. This is how immunosuppressive therapy works. A controlled amount, administered with a healing intent, will build up a tolerance in you that will make you stronger. Avoidance is not the answer.

I’m tired of these doors. I’ve asked Jesus into it, and he says we can sit right here beside this door as long as I need. I don’t have to knock them all down right now. I don’t have to do this hard work all at once, or alone. I can take some time off and pace myself. It is ok to wait. And he will wait with me.

This is part of what Jesus means when He says “take up my yoke”.

Jesus says in Matthew 11:28-30
“28 “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 All of you, take up my yoke and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

He’ll carry our burdens with us. He won’t carry them for us. We’ll work together. But it is heartening to know that when we are working with Jesus, we’ll get a lot further than we would alone.

Mediocrity at work.

What is the point of showing up on time at work? So many of my coworkers don’t. Five minutes is usual for several. Fifteen is normal for one. Not even a “my car wouldn’t start” or “sorry”. Every day. Every week. Late is normal.

Why do I get upset about it? Maybe I should start showing up late, but I wasn’t raised that way. It seems like cheating. If we are paid to work 40 hours, I think we should at least be here 40 hours.

But then there are plenty of people who just show up for 40 hours and don’t actually do anything.

Government jobs aren’t like private sector jobs. It is hard to get fired. It is more likely that low performing people will get transferred rather than fired. They will get shuffled off another department or another division.

I had a coworker who was amazingly inept. I have never ever encountered someone who worked as slowly and as badly. He took twice as long to do half as much work, and he screwed that half up. I and others constantly had to fix his mistakes.

Because we are civil service, we would have to be taken to court to be fired. This is good in a way – it means we can’t lose our jobs the moment a new Mayor or Governor gets elected. Sometimes it is dangerous to root for the wrong political party.

But it also means that if you have an employee who is doing very badly, he gets to keep his job. It also means that if you have an employee who is doing very well, he won’t get a raise. It cuts both ways. Mediocrity is encouraged.

There is no incentive to do well. There is no incentive to train or learn more. There is no incentive to do anything more than the average. You’ll get paid the same as the slacker.

Finished. Are we there yet?

People want wine but they don’t want to harvest the grapes.

People want to be a best-selling author but they don’t want to take the time to write.

People want to be a famous artist but they don’t even want to doodle.

People want to be healthy and slim but they don’t want to go to the gym.

Everything worth having requires work.

Everything worth doing is worth doing well.

Nothing is easy at the beginning. Nothing is beautiful at the start.

Even Mozart wrote some bad songs.
Even Shakespeare wrote some lame plays.

They won’t all be winners.

But keep going. Keep trying.

Every day, work.
Every day, walk
toward your goal.

Have patience in the process.
For it is from humble beginnings
and great effort
That “overnight success” awakens.

Hindu/Christian

Is it about being Christian, or being Christ-like? What is more important? The label or the work?

Perhaps you have seen the video about a Hindu man of the Brahman caste who quit his job to feed the poor and destitute in his city in India. His name is Narayanan Krishnan. He cooks breakfast, lunch, and supper and goes out into the streets and feeds them. He doesn’t just drop the food and leave. He feeds them by hand, himself. This is against the rules for his caste to do, but he does it because he feels it is the right thing to do. He also will shave them and bathe them if needed. He has commented that it is important to feed the soul as well as the body – to let these people know that someone cares for them as a human being, and that they are loved.

He and his team feed thousands of people every day. They feed the old, the sick, the mentally ill. They feed all the people that society has thrown out, has deemed as worthless.

This Hindu is very Christ-like. It isn’t about faith or religion, but service and love. Of course, there are plenty of people who say they are Christian who will say that he is going straight to hell – meanwhile they aren’t doing anywhere near the amount of service he is doing.

Jesus says in Matthew 12:50 50 For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven, that person is My brother and sister and mother.”

There is also story in the Gospels about the disciples getting ticked off because they see people who aren’t part of the group doing their work. They feel jealous and threatened. They are angry. In Mark 9:38-41 we read “38 John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in Your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.” 39 “Don’t stop him,” said Jesus, “because there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name who can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 For whoever is not against us is for us. 41 And whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of My name, since you belong to the Messiah—I assure you: He will never lose his reward.”

I believe the goal of Christianity is to bring Jesus to people, rather than bringing people to Jesus. That we are supposed to serve them in the same way that Jesus served them – love, heal, feed, encourage. Not to convert them. But I say this on my blog and “Christians” attack me for it. I find it crazy that I’m all for the love and the service and they freak out over it. Like love is a bad thing.

I’ve decided I no longer care what they think. They are on their own path. For me to try to convert them is just as pointless as them trying to convert me. I’m trying to love them anyway, to see their pain and their need to control in their words. They were taught this intolerance, these words. They haven’t woken up yet. They think I’m asleep too, that I’m blind too.

They’ll throw the “I am the way” verse at me as their proof that you can’t be Hindu and be saved. They don’t get it. It isn’t about being saved so much as saving. Who cares if you “are saved” and you keep it all to yourself? Who would want to convert to a religion that is all about guilt and control? Not me. This is why I say I’m reluctantly Christian. Actually I think “Jesus follower” sounds better. More accurate.

I’d rather know of a Hindu who does the work of Jesus than know of a person who says they are a Christian but all they do is tell people they need to “accept Jesus as their Lord and Savior.”

What is the value of “accepting Jesus” if you don’t do the work? It isn’t about lip service. It is about service. It is about humbling yourself. It is about being a servant. It is about taking up the yoke and following Jesus, by doing His work.

In James 2:14-17 we read “Jesus says “14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can his faith save him? 15 If a brother or sister is without clothes and lacks daily food 16 and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,” but you don’t give them what the body needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way faith, if it doesn’t have works, is dead by itself.”

Christians argue all the time about what denomination has it figured out and what doesn’t. Christians also say that Christians as a whole are better off than non-Christians. More enlightened. Closer to God.

Nobody is, if they aren’t willing to do the work.

In Mark 9:33-35 we read “33 Then they came to Capernaum. When He was in the house, He asked them, “What were you arguing about on the way?” 34 But they were silent, because on the way they had been arguing with one another about who was the greatest. 35 Sitting down, He called the Twelve and said to them, “If anyone wants to be first, he must be last of all and servant of all.”

Jesus came to teach us to serve, and to teach us that God is real, and loves us. That is it. That is what we are called to do. We are to serve everyone. We are to let them know that God is real, and that God loves them. We are to show them love. Not guilt-trip them or judge them.

Matthew 25:31-46
31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, just as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will put the sheep on His right and the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

35 For I was hungry
and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;
36 I was naked and you clothed Me;
I was sick and you took care of Me;
I was in prison and you visited Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You something to drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or without clothes and clothe You? 39 When did we see You sick, or in prison, and visit You?’
40 “And the King will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of Mine, you did for Me.’ 41 Then He will also say to those on the left, ‘Depart from Me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels!

42 For I was hungry
and you gave Me nothing to eat;
I was thirsty
and you gave Me nothing to drink;
43 I was a stranger
and you didn’t take Me in;
I was naked
and you didn’t clothe Me,
sick and in prison
and you didn’t take care of Me.’

44 “Then they too will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry, or thirsty, or a stranger, or without clothes, or sick, or in prison, and not help You?’
45 “Then He will answer them, ‘I assure you: Whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for Me either.’
46 “And they will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

(All translations of the Bible are from the Holman Christian Standard Version.)