Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Interesting Sight

So my TempBuilding has pick-up boxes for UPS, FedEx, and DHL in the bottom of the stairwell. All three boxes have their final pick-up at 6PM.

Well, the other day I was leaving a few minutes before six and I saw an interesting sight as I came to the bottom of the stairs. The FedEx girl, DHL guy, and UPS guy were all just sitting there chatting like old friends. It didn't strike me until I was on my way out that they probably do that everyday as they wait for 6PM to roll around.....then they rush off to deliver more things.

I wonder if that's a quiet moment that they look forward to or an awkward moment that they try to avoid.

Last night I left at about the same time and was surprised to only see the DHL and UPS guys there. The FedEx lady wasn't there yet. I wonder if they missed her in their conversation.

Maybe they're both secretly in love with her. Maybe they try to do macho things in lifting packages and stuff to try to impress her. Perhaps they sit there discussing poetry and trying to impress her with their sensitive minds.

What? You don't make up stories about the people you see?

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

All I Ever Needed to Know About Church, I Learned From an Investment Firm

For all that I complain about the tedium, working at this investment firm as a temp has been a really great experience for me.

Except for the foul-mouthed old guy that I spoke of previously (and even him except for when he's cursing up a storm (very loudly) on the phone), the people here are probably the nicest group of people I've ever met.

What's so striking about them, I think, is that they genuinely care for one another. When one is having a bad day, they take them outside for a gripe session. When one undergoes surgery or illness, they visit them in the hospital and chide them if they don't report on their progress while they're out. They celebrate each others' birthdays. They hang out with each other outside of the office. They're professional without losing their humanity, and they're extremely welcoming.

I came into this, my first temp assignment, with the expectation that I'd be ignored and/or looked down upon (mostly because that's how I feel/felt about temps). Instead, they immediately treated me like one of their own. It's only been as the weeks progressed that I even realized that they hadn't all been here forever, but there were actually others who were almost as new as me.

I've been trying to figure out what it is that causes this familial attitude among them, and I can only assume that it's the lunches together. That 30 minutes a day when most of the company sits down together to eat gives everyone an opportunity to know everyone, and for everyone to be equal. At lunch, it's not the executive assistants vs. the accountants vs. the's just a bunch of hungry people. We talk about our families, about movies, about our travel experiences.....about whatever comes up. And it seems that everyone recognizes the necessity of each of the others. The partners realize that they couldn't do their jobs effectively without the EAs to take care of them, etc. The bottom line of the lunch table is that we're all just hungry people.

And more and more, my thoughts come back to "this is how the church should be." The church should be this polite to one another. The church should care this much about each other. The church should take care of each other when someone's sick or hurting, and we should understand the usefulness of those who have different skill sets or giftings than our own.

So what can we do to the church to make it more like this investment firm?

  • Size: advantage that the firm has is that it's relatively small. Instead of a mega-church, maybe we should look into "mini-churches." For all that I disliked the "church planting movement" methodology that I was taught (maximum of 12 people!!!! 13 people is way too many!!!! (among other things)), the more my church trys to become "Saddleback East" (i.e., BIG!!!!!!), the less I want to be there, and the more I long for a small church. That's partly because I feel lost in the crowd in terms of serving at my church (they have so much musical depth that I'm almost unnecessary, albeit nice to have around, while a small church could not only use my talents more frequently, they would also thereby give me far more opportunities to grow and improve), partly because I naturally recoil from "fads" like "Purpose-Driven, the flame thrower," but partly because it's become a logistical nightmare and I long for a simpler time.
  • Breaking of bread: One of the tenets of the early church was that they "had all things in common" and that they "broke bread together." I think that much of this sense of community and family that I feel here is due to the daily ritual of eating together. So, I think that, as a church, we should eat together more. Not just the weekly Wednesday night dinner or the annual Labor Day picnic, but frequently, and with the same general group of people each time.
  • Professionalism: One advantage that the investment firm has over the church is that people are expected to act "professionally." That's not to say that there's not the occasional cheery old guy with a foul mouth when he's on the phone.....but even he is a professional, attending all meetings he needs to attend, preparing for things, getting his job done. At the church, people seem to fit into one of two categories at most times they're either hiding everything from everyone else via "church face," or they're being "honest" and being some of the meanest, most spiteful people on the face of the earth. I guess sometimes, they're doing both. But there are very few who see Christianity in terms of something which should be practiced moment by moment - all of it, not just the parts that suit us at that particular time, but all of it - bearing one anothers' burdens means not only listening as others share theirs, but also sharing your own! As Christians, our "job" is to become more like Christ. Unless we are constantly striving to do this to the best of our ability, then we're not being "professional" about it.
  • Respect: Probably the most important aspect of this firm that is sadly lacking in many churches is a respect for others' worth. Far too often we see only what is important to us. If we're Trustees, then we only see how people are destroying the building. If we're in the music ministry, then we only care about how to make that better. Often, we focus on our own thing to the neglect of others. Musicians complain about the rules the trustees lay down, and trustees complain about how much damage musical sets cause, etc., etc. (that's a fairly common example in most churches, I'm sure, but it could definitely be expanded to other examples). If, instead of seeing the other person or group as our enemy or as someone who's needlessly trying to curtail our fun/ministry, if we respect their opinions and them, if we recognize their value as people and as members of the community, we will not only save ourselves a great deal of angst, but we will often foster greater communication and understanding.
I'm sure there are other ways that the church could be better (barring removing the people from it). But now comes the hard part. How do we effect these kinds of changes?

Our new Sunday School class is trying, although they may not all be aware of it. We're a relatively small group (4-ish couples right now). We try to get together for dinner/games once a week in addition to our Sunday morning time. As far as I can judge (which isn't really my place), all of the people in the group are, for the most part, actively seeking to become more Christ-like, and they all seem to value and respect each other.

Hopefully we can continue those trends and find a way to expand our model to other classes or groups. We'll see.


So, last Thursday I received not one, but two job offers. Great news, right?

Well.....yes, and no.....

The first one I received was from the Army. They offered what I was making at my previous engineering job three years ago and before I got my MS. That kinda threw me for a loop. I knew that their offer would be lower than the others..........but for it to be exactly what I was making before was a "bit" of a blow. Especially given that my salary for the next two years would cap out at what the other company offered me up front. Now, in their defense, after I escape from their 2-year direct-hire program, that pay could possibly jump astronomically, plus I'd be helping to defend America, and I really liked the people there, etc., etc., but it's in defense (as opposed to space), and it's in Alexandria (1.5 hr drive on a good week day, 2+ on a bad one.....and that'd still be less time than it'd take me on public transport). Oh...and due to clearances, there would be no telecommuting ever. Plus lots of travel.

The second one I received was from my old company.....which I really didn't want to go back to and to whom I only applied because VNB made me. But, they offered me something "reasonable" (still far below what says is the median for someone with my qualifications, but a heck of a lot more than I'm making as a temp....and $17k higher than the Army's offer)...and they're actually in the space industry....and "only" in Bethesda, which would be about 45 minutes on a good day and only 1.5 hours on a really bad one. Plus, if we needed to, I could commute in with VNB at o'dark-thirty, then metro to work, reversing that for the trip home. I could telecommute some days.....but a major downside is that they seem to be hiring me just because they want to, and not because they have any actual _work_ for me to do. So....while it's theoretically nice to have a high-paying job to sit around and do'll probably drive me crazy in short order.

I mean, it's one thing to juggle white-out bottles when you're a temp who's being paid to be there to sign for packages........but to do it at three-times the pay? When, theoretically, there should be work for you to do? I'd far rather be busy than bored.

So....I dunno....I'll probably go with Futron again just because it doesn't make sense to hire on someplace purely for the expectation that you'll probably get a huge pay increase in two years......when you hope to be home, having babies in two years. Plus it's space. Not to mention not needing a clearance, so I could start at any time, rather than having to wait a month or two.

But I tell you.....even with all of the "spices" of relatively good pay and location, crow is still really hard to get down.

Back of the Boat

So last week at church, Pastor D was up from our adopted church in Nicholson, MS. He spoke, of course, on weathering the storms of life and his text was, of course, the story in Mark of Jesus sleeping in the back of the boat as the disciples faced a storm on the Sea of Galillee. Now, while not all of the disciples were fishermen, a goodly number were, so there was some boating experience there. These weren't all complete novices, and those who _did_ know something about boats also knew that particular sea and its penchant for suddent, violent storms.

But even with their experience and knowledge, they were still scared witless and couldn't fathom how Jesus could be in the back of the boat, sleeping, while they were battling this storm and (ostensibly) losing.

Now, I've had a teacher in the past teach that there were two conclusions that could be drawn from those facts:
a) Jesus didn't care that they were all about to die
b) Jesus wasn't concerned because He knew that they _weren't_ about to die.

The disciples chose conclusion a, when the correct conclusion was obviously b.

So, in my pride, I thought that, since I knew that Jesus _cared_ about the current storm in my life (no job), that therefore, I must automatically be concluding b - that He had it all under control and was sitting back because He knew that. But I realized that there's actually a third conclusion that the disciples could have drawn:
c) Maybe they weren't as skilled at handling boats as they thought.

All the while that I was patting myself on the back for ostensibly concluding b, I was really concluding c - that maybe I wasn't as good at engineering as I thought I was. Now while I could probably have used some humbling in that regard, I took it past where it needed to go. I'm not saying that I was bemoaning my lack of marketability.....but I was definitely beginning to lose confidence. response, I've started trying to block out those kinds of thoughts and _actually_ trust that God's got it under control. Maybe there hasn't been a huge, visible change.....but it's good to know that the third conclusion exists and that it's still not the right one.

Been too long's been a while since I've posted. I've had several ideas for posts, I just haven't actually written them.....but now that my car keys have disappeared from my key chain and I'm stuck here with nothing better to do until VNB can get here with the spare, I figure I might as well catch you up.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Learn Something New Every Day

What I learned today:

White-Out bottles are singularly difficult to juggle.

Does that give you an idea of how boring today has been?