Friday, January 20, 2006

Counting my chickens, or Thoughts on accepting a job that I haven't yet been fully offered

I think I managed to acquire a job today. I’m not going to count my proverbial chickens before they hatch, but (to borrow from another colloquialism) I think it’s in the bag.

I interviewed for a position at a plant nursery and show garden here in Colorado Springs. Should I be extended an offer and accept the position, I would become their tree salesman for the season. I would probably be put in charge of repotting as well.

Many of you know that this sort of position is right up my alley. Plants—trees especially—are on my list of favorites (see footnote 1). I worked at a nursery in Juneau, Alaska, the summer that I went “on project” with Campus Crusade for Christ. I loved what I did, being surrounded by beauty all day. I would marvel at the colors and contours of each plant that I worked with. The job would have been relatively perfect (can perfection be so modified?) were it not for my boss, whose cantankerousness seemed to increase throughout the summer. Other than working for a sometimes crotchety man who quite resembled Santa Clause (only in plaid and driving a beat up Chevy truck), I could not complain. God created me to enjoy the beauty of His natural creation, and I got paid to enjoy it.

Here’s the quandary I find myself in now: I’m not sure I want to take the job here in Colorado Springs. (Yes, I know I can’t refuse a job I haven’t been offered. Obviously, my chickens haven’t yet hatched; what follows probably constitutes me counting them prematurely.)

I am experiencing two reservations, one of which I know is most likely illegitimate and probably unbiblical. I’m not sure yet about the other. Let’s first discuss the latter.

My interviewer—the woman who manages the nursery, and my would-be immediate supervisor—warned me at the outset of our meeting that the man who owns the entire business is notoriously Jekyll-and-Mr.-Hyde-ish in the way he treats his employees. One day he may take them out for lunch, and the next he’ll tell them that they’re doing it all wrong. It just depends on his mood. From what I gather, he possesses the male version of what is often referred to in women as a high maintenance personality. Everyone has to walk on eggshells, because no one knows what his mood will be. The man I worked for in Juneau had the same sort of personality, and I can tell you that he was often not an enjoyable person to be around. I really don’t want to work for a man who doesn’t understand the effect that his countenance and speech have on his workers. I recall the days when my fellow workers and I would lament our boss’s emotional vacillations. We really wanted to quit, but we couldn’t, as per our the agreement we signed with project staff prior to going to Juneau with Crusade.

But here’s the flip side of the coin: I almost want to take on the challenge of befriending this man, and getting on his good side, so to speak. I want to show him what a dependable person looks like. Most importantly, I want to show him how a devoted Christian lives, or at least works.

So, do I take on the job, and try to keep my chin up when my boss unwarrantedly criticizes my work, hoping that I have some sort of influence on him? Or do I continue looking for a place that consistently treats their employees with respect?

I don’t know. But I do suppose that God knows. And so I shouldn’t be anxious.

1. Other favorites include honey mustard; bright colors, especially orange; and sunsets.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Wilderness and the Ecology of Healing

Hiking on Douglas Island, in Southeast Alaska. Admiralty Island in the background.

Tonight, I started crying, and I’m not sure why. I was reading a book called The Pine Island Paradox. I read the following sentence, from a chapter about bringing wildness into our everyday lives:

“Maybe moral resolve is the highest value of wildness, the wild flash of awareness that the ecological wholeness of the natural world requires a moral integrity as well” (Moore, p. 100).

The sentence is profound, but my sudden outpouring of emotion surprised me. I believe that the author so clearly stated in that one sentence what I want to accomplish with my entire life that I didn’t know how to contain myself. I suddenly became completely overwhelmed at God’s goodness in having created the beauty that is the natural world. I suddenly became completely overwhelmed by my desire to communicate to others that beauty and our collective responsibility to maintain it.

Before I was reading, I had been looking at photos of Alaska on the internet. The beauty of one photograph in particular struck me to such a degree that I had to look away. The golden grass and the magenta of the flowers growing out of a rock made of slate as black as darkness was too much for me to handle. The color and the composition created such an amazing sight that I felt as if I was looking at the face of God. I had to turn away. I know that’s a strange, seemingly blasphemous comparison, but that’s how I felt. But if God is the source of all beauty, is that really so strange a thought? Is it so peculiar that the image in my mind of something He created would bring me to tears?

I began to think of my time in Alaska. I began to thank God for all the beautiful places that I saw there. I longed to be in those places again. I wanted to see the mountains and the glaciers and the sea so badly that I thought I was going to turn myself inside out. In unison, I felt both the joy and angst of wanting something that I could never get enough of. I don’t know how to fully describe it but I think it’s like when you love a person. When you truly love someone, you want them so badly that you want to somehow consume them into who you are. You want that person so badly that you not only want to define yourself in relation to them, but you want to literally be one with that person. You desire a complete lack of distinction between who that person is and who you are. They begin where you begin. They end where you end. That is how I felt, after having read the aforementioned sentence and picturing in my mind the photo of the grass and the flower growing out of the stone. I longed for the landscape of Alaska to such a degree that my heart was overflowing, and yet could never be satisfied.

I read the sentence again, and I was reminded of the faithfulness that God showed me during and after my time in Southeast Alaska. While I was in Juneau, I was on a summer project with Campus Crusade for Christ. God used that time to heal many emotional wounds. The landscape of that place has become for me an Ebenezer stone of God’s faithfulness to me. I hadn’t the strength to complete that summer on my own. But He granted me the grace I needed to fulfill the mission He sent me on. The beauty of Southeast Alaska represents to me healing that God has done in my life. Beauty is healing. Healing is beauty.

I began to dwell on my desire to incorporate the beauty of wild landscape with the healing that God does in our lives when we trust in Him. I’ve always had within me a feeling that the two are somehow linked—that spiritual and ecological wholeness are two different paint strokes made by the same Artist. For a while now I’ve had a desire to use nature as therapy, to utilize nature as both setting and metaphor to help wounded souls heal. I had a sort of epiphany, you know. Wilderness draws people in. I’ve always wondered why. Why are people so drawn to the wild places? Why do we feel rejuvenated when we escape our paved streets and skyscrapers? Maybe it’s because nature is God’s original design. Why do people spend their money on counseling sessions and self-help books? Why do people do anything they can to feel whole? Maybe it’s because wholeness is God’s original design. That’s what got me thinking about the amazing parallel between wilderness and the human soul. Wilderness is so valuable to the human soul because it is so beautiful and perfect. It reminds us––me at least––that wholeness and healing truly are possible. If it is possible in the wilderness perhaps it is possible within me. Wilderness inspires vulnerability, and vulnerability begets healing.

Tonight I was overwhelmed with God’s beauty and His healing. I was consumed by His goodness.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

New Year's Resolutions

Being the New Year and all, I decided I’d be a tool and make some resolutions. These are pretty much the normal sort of resolutions. For some reason, I really like making resolutions. Maybe I like fooling myself into thinking that I really can change. I mean, I know I can, but for the most part, those changes haven’t come from a few decisions I’ve made around the first of the year. I guess I like to think about what is possible if I were to actually follow through with my yearly oaths: I’d be really buff, able to run a marathon, rich (or at least frugal), well read, the best friend you’ve ever had, and holier than Moses and Paul combined. Instead, I’m of average strength, huffing and puffing through my three mile workout, just barely able to pay off my credit card this month (and who knows about the next), prone to reading only Christian non-fiction, poor at keeping in touch, and definitely not being canonized in the near future.

But like I said, I like to think of the possibilities. I shall enumerate.

1) I resolve to read the Bible every single day. To be honest, I’ve always found it difficult to make time for a “quiet time” (what does that mean, anyway?). Those stretches of time when I have communed with God everyday have been transformational. Why do I forget this? Why do I get caught up in the busyness of life and forget that my relationship with Jesus is what really sustains me? My guess, after taking the time to be introspective, is that I begin to believe that my worth comes from doing things and doing them well, rather than simply being. When I spend both quality and quantity time with God, I remember much more easily that He made me, first and foremost, to be in relationship with Him, and not to get things done and look sufficiently competent doing them.

2) I resolve to run the BolderBOULDER, and in 52 minutes. It’s a 10K race held every Memorial Day in Boulder, CO. I think 8:15 per mile is reasonable. I’ve always wanted to get into running. I do it to stay in shape, but no more than four or five miles at a time. I’d like to work my way to up to half-marathons. Or maybe a marathon. I’m not a fast runner, by any stretch of the imagination, but I love the challenge of running until you can’t. I also love running as a stress reliever. After a run, I don’t have a care in the world. Endorphins are a gift from on high. If you’ve never experienced runner’s high, you’re really missing out. The few times that I have were pure bliss. I highly recommend it. But watch out – all that running really jostles the bowels (if you know what I mean).

3) I resolve to lift weights at least three times every week. This goal is requisite to every new year. I’m always wanting to be buffer (more buff?) than I am. But it’s not all about aesthetics. I do like the physical challenge of lifting weights. And lifting helps me run better, and jump higher, and hit a volleyball harder.

4) I resolve to call my friends on the phone more often.

5) I resolve to find myself a spiritual mentor. I already have a lead on this one. I hope it works out. I’ve never actually had to seek this out on my own. When you’re involved in a campus ministry, they basically seek you out. Now, I have to do the seeking. It’s intimidating, but worth the fear of rejection (which is ridiculous in and of itself).

6) I resolve to make and adhere to a budget.

That’s all for now. I’m sure I’ll post more of these later. I hope you have fun making your own resolutions. Resolve to resolve.