Archive for May, 2013

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What I Want My Sabbatical To Look Like

May 22, 2013

sabbaticalI have told many professionals I have counseled they should take a sabbatical about every 7-10 years. That is not only good psychological advice, it is great career advice. Anyone involved in helping people or educational endeavors gets stale and routine because of working with people so much.

Yet in all of my advice-giving, I have never taken a sabbatical. Shame on me.

Even this one was “forced” upon me by a superior and by my board. They saw some tell-tale signs of exhaustion that I had missed. Fortunately, I had a year to plan this trip with my wife; and in doing so, I have read many books and articles on the subject.

One of the first things every book said is to know WHY you are going on sabbatical. There are many possible reasons, and each person should establish theirs. Here are the most common possibilities:

  • Rest
  • Academic pursuit
  • Writing
  • Traveling and site-seeing
  • Preparing for retirement
  • Preparing for a change in career/job focus
  • Spiritual pursuits
  • Fun
  • Reconnecting with family and friends

According to the magazine “Fast Company”, over 25% of companies in America now allow employees to take a sabbatical. Non-profit organizations allow over 35% of their workers to take a sabbatical of 3-6 months duration. Since this is becoming a common trend, I suspect that many people will be considering it in the years to come.

For my wife and I, we really have several goals during this time. For Kathy, she wants to finish up the research part of her Master’s Degree in Public Health Nursing. For me, I have been working on a book for the better part of two years. I have finished the rough draft, but now I need to get it ready to send in to a publisher. There is much to do. Each of us has dedicated two hours of every week-day during sabbatical to pursue these endeavors.

But there are four other goals I have for this time away. I have spent a year thinking about these things and these are the four that keep coming to the forefront.

1. Spiritual Growth: In helping other people to find a depth of discovery about God, I have run out of new paths to walk in my spirit. I want to find some fresh ways to stay in relationship with the God I love and serve. I have a number of

Mini Guitar

books that will help me do this. A friend of mine lent me a mini-guitar, small enough to fit into our gear, so I will use music to help me find this path. Jesus is waiting to spend time with me and both of us would be disappointed if I missed this opportunity.

2. Rest: Dr. William Dement in his book “The Promise of Sleep” says that each ten  year period we develop a sleep debt of several months. He teaches that we can only bring true health to our bodies if we get caught up. Kathy and I intend to get more than 8 hours a night. In fact, the first few days we have rented a room on California’s north coast. The room has no television or phone. We may not even get dressed.

3. Reading: Each of us has found a half dozen books to read that will feed our minds, hearts, emotions, passions and sense of humor. I can’t speak for Kathy’s list, but mine is an eclectic mix of authors and topics that will surely send me flying in all directions. (One of our stops along the way is Portland, OR…and we will be spending an entire day at Powell’s Books. I am sure I’ll blog from that humungous book store).

4. Travel/Service: We will be moving around a lot during this time. And part of what we want to do is serve. We won’t be doing counseling/nursing/pastoring per se, but even if we help someone by making a meal for them, that will feed the service part of our being. Combined with rest and spiritual development, this will be an essential part of our growth.

Pray for us as we launch into the unknown reaches our own limitations.

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Pat Rob’s best Driscoll Imitation

May 17, 2013

outrageousThere are many different ways to become well-known in this world. But for a preacher, the number of acceptable means to get your name in the public eye is smaller than with other people.

Or at least, it should be.

But there is a growing coterie of preachers/bible teachers/”evangelists” who have chosen a tried-and-true formula for notoriety. The number who do this is always small and always annoying to true followers of Christ.

The formula looks like this:

1. Make outrageous statements based on marginal Christian beliefs that owe more to popular opinion than the Bible.

2. Make even more outrageous statements to back up the first ones.

3. When cornered by the press, claim  you were taken out of context, or that the current culture of morality can’t accept the truth, or even that you meant something completely different.

A century ago, Aimee  Semple McPherson did this. Oral Roberts also practiced the same approach. Mark Driscoll is well on his way to eclipsing both of them for bombasticity.

But we should not forget Pat Robertson, whose 700 Club gave him ample visibility to make unwise statements. Just the other day he made another of his monumental blunders. You can read about it here:

In the program, Robertson is responding to a letter from a woman whose husband has had an affair. Here’s a short excerpt from the article:

Robertson responded to a woman identified as Ivy during Wednesday’s episode of “The 700 Club.” Ivy wrote, “We have gone to counseling, but I just can’t seem to forgive, nor can I trust. How do you let go of the anger? How do you trust again?

Robertson’s co-host began to answer the letter when the one-time Republican presidential hopeful interjected with the “secret” to getting past the cheating.

“Stop talking about the cheating. He cheated on you. Well, he’s a man. O.K.,” Robertson said.

Robertson, in true misogynistic fashion lays covert blame on the wife. He tells her, ““Males have a tendency to wander a little bit, and what you want to do it make the home so wonderful that he doesn’t want to wander.”

So Pat R. is essentially saying, “This is just the way men are”, and “if you don’t make the home a perfect place to come to, you can expect him to act this way.” Implicitely, this makes it her fault.

He has unleashed a firestorm of criticism and just gives those who are leaving churches another justification for doing so.

This debacle underscores the dangers of having any Christian superstar preachers and teachers. It is better to be taught by those who aren’t looking for the spotlight and who count the ability to communicate with gentleness, love and Truth as more important than the motto “I don’t care what you say about me, just spell my name right.”

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20 Signs You Have OLD Geek Cred

May 16, 2013

Because you need to know there is a world of difference between the geek cred of the baby boomers and that of today’s generations, here is a list that shows you were there before the Internet exploded.

  1. You Grokked before you could flirt. In fact, you still grok and can’t flirt
  2. You punched cards to compile a computer program
  3. You could make pictures using just x’s and o’s on a Telex printout
  4. You can identify the difference between the sound a 2400 baud and a 14400 baud modem made.
  5. You still own a 2400 baud modem somewhere in a closet
  6. You completed a Rubik’s Cube without taking it apart or reading a book on how to do it
  7. Some of your fingerprints are missing due to excessive amounts of airplane glue on the fingers during airplane construction all-nighters.
  8. You’ve read LOTR more than 10 times before anyone had seen any of the movies.
  9. You were in love with one of the following sci-fi heroines: Galadriel, Mennolly, Eowyn, Kahlan Amnell or Meg Murry.

10. You have used both an abacus and a slide rule

11. You can play and win at Go, Pente, Chess, and Axis and Allies.

12. You know what a Heathkit is and have put one together and found out they were missing some of the parts. Extra bonus credit if you had the missing parts lying around from other kits. Ultimate bonus if you made the extra parts.

13. You played Pong and thought it was the beginning of the Revolution. You were right.

14. You knew Radio Shack when it was Tandy and had more leather goods than electronic. You bought both.

15. Your first computer had less than 16K of motherboard memory.

16. You know that a 1K segment of memory does not have 1,000 bytes but rather 1024. And you know why.

17. You can count in hexadecimal.

18. You wanted to be a Tarnsman and enter Gor through some secret door. Alternatively, you wanted all the girls from Gor to enter your world through some secret door. Heck, you wanted any secret door.

19. Your parents would get nervous when you entered the room with a screwdriver in your hands. Bonus points if they instantly protected the television set.

20. You can recite the mnemonic for remembering the order of colors in any resistor. (e.g Bright Boys Rave Over Young Girls But Veto Getting Wed)

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Solving Procrastination Today (Not Tomorrow)

May 5, 2013

ProcrastinationI am distractible, impulsive, mildly lazy, and…..something else (I had it in my mind, but I thought about something I wanted to say later and then forgot it). Did I say distractible?

These qualities/handicaps are a perfect storm when it comes to procrastination. Not only do I secretly want to postpone everything until after I finish playing Scrabble online, I also can’t remember what it was I felt so passionate about five minutes before. In addition, in the middle of doing one thing, I get ideas about a half dozen  delicious activities while trying to avoid putting off something that is less delectable.

Do you see my problem? Do you relate to my problem? Of course you do. David Glenn, writing about surveys among post-graduate students (yes, those guys and gals who have actually proven they know how to work without watching re-runs of Lost as the hours tick closer to deadlines), says that 60% of these good students practice regular procrastination. In addition, the majority experience some level of self-loathing because of it.

This has got to stop. In my meanderings through 40 years of being in the work-force, I have actually learned to stay on task and complete necessary assignments. Years ago, I wallowed in self-loathing a lot, but now I rarely ever do it. I actually have learned how not to procrastinate – even with my personal proclivities in that direction.

Here’s how I do it. You may find better ways to handle yours, but at least you can start with mine. With procrastinators, a starting place is always a helpful place.

Six Ways to Avoid Procrastination

1. Do things as soon as you think about them. This one idea changed everything for me. I have so many things whiz through my mind like Space Invaders. I used to get annoyed at how whimsy my brain was – until I learned some of the ‘shooting star’ thoughts were actually things I had been avoiding. For instance: I was typing this article and realized (for the fiftieth time) that my screen is getting pretty gross with dust and fingerprints. I took that moment of personal disgust to propel myself out of the chair to find the cleaner and clean it off. Then, since I had the cleaner, I did the same thing to my tablet and smart phone. I had been putting off cleaning all three. This is what can happen if you leverage your distractedness and use it to approach a task you’ve been avoiding.

Yesterday in the grocery store, I saw some place-mats that looked perfect for the dining room table. In examining their price, I saw the word “Mat” and thought of a friend named Matt. I was supposed to call him and set up a lunch. So on the spot in the grocery store, I called. If I had left it until I was finished shopping, 3200 ideas would have already traveled through my mind, rubbing Matt off the face of this earth.

2. Understand why we don’t want to do certain things. Anything you have been consistently putting off is usually something you don’t want to do in the first place. The next time you put it off, ask yourself why you don’t want to do this. Then imagine what is the worst thing that could happen if you finish the task. Usually, it is our vague sense of impending problems that get in the way of doing work; and this procrastination actually cause more problems.

I normally don’t like talking on the phone. I like to see a person’s face and read their body language so I can catch the bigger picture. So I often procrastinate making phone calls. Recently, I asked myself what would be the worst thing that could happen if I did mis-read what they were saying. When that didn’t feel too onerous, I found it was easier to make the call.

3. Do things that have to be done a little at a time. At least half of the jobs I put off until later are huge. I get easily daunted by things that are going to take several hours to complete. This includes many household chores, some writing assignments and most errands that involve driving downtown.

But in particular, getting ready for major meetings often takes at least two hours. Unfortunately, setting aside strategy thinking causes me to miss some prime preparation thoughts; ideas that would have aided me if I had done them sooner. To prevent my lazy mind from taking over, I break the large tasks down into stages. Then I complete as much of the task as I can in a short period of time. The accomplishment of part of the goal makes it easier at a later point to come back to it.

This winter, I was building a retaining wall in the back yard for a new garden. It was so big in my mind that I literally put it off for a year. To overcome this, I considered the steps I would have to take to get it done. There were several dozen. But once I started to check off the completed items, I realized I was more than half done in so much less time than I feared.

4. Do unpleasant tasks at the same time every day. If there are items that have to be done regularly, get into a habit of doing them: a) early in the day b) at the same time every day. This is a type of behavioral conditioning and it works. Anything we do at the same time every day gets put into a mental place that brings a sense of satisfaction. There is even a payoff reward our brain gives us when we complete something that is done every day.

5. Do a bunch of tasks you’ve been putting off one right after another. The idea here is to get on a roll and when you get that sense of accomplishment, jump immediately into another one of your tasks that has lurked like a mocking sailor. For me, it has to do with phone calls again. Once I break the cell phone barrier and make the call, I ask myself what other calls need to be made. Since I always make lists of people I have to contact, one glance tells me who to call. When I have already called one person, the next person gets easier. At some point, our brain says “resistance is futile” and stops giving such a hard time.

6. Know how to keep lists. The best way to keep a list is to have it close to you at all times. I prefer an online list-maker called Wunderlist. It is free, available for every device and is the easiest program to use. And I look at it on average about a dozen times a day. It is always open on my computer, phone and tablet. And, when great ideas go through my head, I just pop it onto one of my lists and forget about it…until I read that list.

So what item is hanging over your head? Stop wallowing and put some of this into practice.

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