July 14, 2016
Here's what many people know about the book of Job.
1. Job is on trial.
All of those points, however, according to John Walton and Tremper Longman are quite mistaken. In How to Read Job they tell us that actually:
1. God is on trial, not Job.
One key the authors use to unlock the book of Job is the backdrop of the ancient near eastern view of gods and the world. The book of Job in many ways stands in contrast to the thinking of Israel's neighbors.
In other ancient near eastern religions, people served the gods (who had needs) and were in turn blessed by them. In contrast, Job asserts that he serves God without thought of reward (the main challenge in Job 1:9) and continues to do so even when all blessings are removed. While Job is right that the retribution principle does not hold, Job's mistake is calling God to account, demanding that he be vindicated as righteous. If God submitted to Job's demand, he wouldn't be a God worth worshiping.
So if the book of Job does not explain suffering, what can it do for us? Walton and Longman offer a number of points. Here are two. While there is such a thing as natural consequences, Job comforts sufferers by showing how wrongheaded it is to think that when someone suffers it is always a punishment. As Christians we should not pile spiritual or psychological condemnation on top of the pain that suffering people are already experiencing by saying they must have some sin to confess. Rather we support those who suffer.
Nor should we think God can be manipulated--that is, if we act or pray according to a certain formula, he must respond. A God who could be controlled by us in that way wouldn't be much of a God. Rather God is worthy of our worship. He is blessed, whether he gives or takes away.
What we think we know about Job may be wrong, but this brief and very valuable book is a welcome antidote.
July 7, 2016
When employees are unhappy with a decision that leaders have made, often they don't react against the decision. Instead they complain long and loud about the process.
"All sides were not heard adequately."
The decision could have been restructuring the team, moving office spaces around or setting a new strategy. Sometimes complaints are just an indirect way (and so perhaps a safer way) for people to voice their unhappiness with the outcome. But sometimes the complaints are legitimate.
A fair and open process is key to building trust in a team, keeping morale strong, and nurturing a productive work environment. Here is a simple five-step process that can take thirty minutes, thirty days or thirty months. The process is transparent and allows people to participate meaningfully while preserving the legitimate role of leaders to make decisions. Here it is.
First, explain the process to all the key stakeholders in the decision, and what the timeframe will be for a announcing a final decision. Here then are the five steps that leadership will lay out to everyone.
Step 1. All those with a legitimate stake in the decision will have an opportunity to express their views to the decision maker.
Step 2. The decision maker will reflect on all the input and come to a preliminary conclusion, perhaps after consulting with superiors as appropriate.
Step 3. The decision maker will inform the stakeholders of his or her preliminary thinking about the decision and the reasons for it. (If the decision maker presents two to four options with pros and cons, he or she must indicate which is the currently preferred option and why.)
Step 4. The stakeholders will then have an opportunity to give input to the decision maker in response to the preliminary conclusion.
Step 5. The decision maker will then reflect on this input, make a final decision and announce it.
This process has plenty of room for flexibility. For example, the input in Step 1 can be one-on-one interviews, anonymous surveys, group discussions or a combination. Also, who and how many stakeholders are involved (and how it is decided who they are) can vary. In general, I think it is better to err on the side of including more people than fewer unless the decision involves private, personal or sensitive information.
As suggested above, the timeframe for the process can be extended or shortened as appropriate for the decision being made. And for leaders who think it is way too time consuming regardless, this is a much better use of time than dealing with employee fallout from a badly managed decision-making process.
Alert readers will have noticed that this is actually a six-step process. The first step is to tell everyone what the five steps are. Informing people openly and ahead of time how the process will work is essential.
This process won't make everyone happy with the final result. Yet these steps preserve the authority and responsibility of the decision maker, while showing true respect for the people who will be most affected by the decision being made. That is no small thing.
June 23, 2016
My sister died because of a vaccine . . . a vaccine she never received. On a September morning in 1952, at the age of seven, Lucy Rae Le Peau contracted polio and died that afternoon. The vaccine that would have saved her life would not be developed for another year. It was a vaccine my grieving mother prayed for desperately, especially because her three other children, including me, were still vulnerable to the terrifying disease. Every year thousands of children across the United States were struck with it, peaking the year my sister died with over 57,000 cases, of whom 3,145 died.Continue reading "The Vaccine Hero"
June 7, 2016
Kevin Kelly, guru of Wired magazine, proves himself to be a polymath who is not afraid to have an opinion or two in his book What Technology Wants. His main provocative point is that technology is developing in certain predictable ways.Continue reading "Where Is Technology Going?"
May 24, 2016
In the 1970s a friend gave me a copy of Kenneth Bailey's The Cross and the Prodigal. I was blown away. It transformed my understanding of how to read the New Testament. Later I devoured Poet and Peasant and Through Peasant Eyes. Bailey's basic thesis was that Middle Eastern peasant culture changes only very slowly. So if we want to understand the world that Jesus lived in, we should get to know Middle Eastern peasant culture today.Continue reading "Kenneth E. Bailey, 1930--2016"
May 12, 2016