sjb

Personal blog with rants, mostly on tech

This is my first post since moving to a new city over a month ago. Overall the move has been incredible, getting me plugged into a godly church, making all kinds of new friends, and getting more into the rhythm of my new(ish) job. This post is about a small piece of that move. Specifically, a Wednesday morning Bible group I attend.

Rise and Shine

One of the first things I did with my new church was try to find community. That meant looking into the Bible groups offered and finding the ones that would fit my schedule. I settled on a Tuesday evening group that specifically targets folks in their twenties. At one of the first weekly meetings someone stood up and mentioned a men's group that meets at 6:30 AM on Wednesdays. 6:30! You mean AM as in the morning? Ouch!

The group was described as being mostly older men. I can't remember the last time I had older, more experienced Christian men speaking into my life like that. Maybe college... or maybe not ever? Anyways, I decided it was worth a shot. I'm so glad that I did.

The group is definitely older. Some of them are my parents age, and some are older than my grandparents. They all have one thing in common though: they love the Lord their God. You can just tell in the way they talk, the responsibilities they take on, and the way they live that they are living out their lives intentionally.

Wise Counsel

They have so many stories. One of them takes flowers to widows and the sick. The same guy greeted me at group the first week and said he had been praying for a year that the Lord would bring young men to the Wednesday group. I don't think I have consistently prayed for anything that long! He also prepares content each week to discuss, sharing the Word of God. This is what faithfulness looks like.

Then there are others that love on the homeless almost daily. Their job is to ride around and connect the downtrodden outcasts of society with housing, work, and basic medical care. I decided to ride along a couple of times thinking I might learn something. Talk about grueling, heartbreaking work! They truly love some of the most unlovable people I've ever seen, who often reek and seem to repeatedly backslide deeper into their own personal hell, struggling to survive. I think what I find most impressive is that when driving around looking for people who need help, they can just pop off dozens of names and recognize so many people on sight. I can't even remember some of the people I see weekly at Bible group. This is what love looks like.

Another man is a seasoned engineer, spending decades in technology. I admire the drive to stay relevant in an ever-evolving industry, while simultaneously giving advice to other companies and consistently finding the time to attend on Wednesday mornings. This is, of course, in addition to having his own family at home to tend to! There is a lot I can learn from him: how to be a loving husband and father, how to be a peacemaker within my home, and how to keep my priorities straight. This is what right priorities look like.

What does a godly man look like? Are you starting to get the picture?

There is also the man whose son nearly died from a bizarre infection he came down with in college. The family spent months in the hospital while their son hung on by threads, unlikely to survive. Miraculously his son's diagnosis shifted one day, almost overnight, and even now continues to heal. It sounds like a really difficult way to live. It isn't hard for me to imagine my heart hardening in response, ending up jaded or cynical. Instead, what I see is a man sharing the miracle of healing God brought into his family. It is easy to read Romans and see that God works all things together for His purpose for those that love Him, but to believe it when faced with astronomical medical bills and your son dying in the hospital? This is what trusting God looks like.

A New Prayer

I'm so grateful for the community I am finding in my new church, and in the men within this Wednesday morning group. Dwelling on their character, I realized that they embody traits for my own life that I can pray about:

Lord,

Help me to be faithful in prayer, that I would never stop as long as I draw breath. Encourage me to trust in your promises, even when my life is in chaos. Remind me constantly what real love looks like, and help me give it... especially when it is hard. Build me continually into the kind of man who glorifies your name, with right priorities. Make me a peacemaker in my family and in my life.

Conclusion

The craziest thing is that I haven't gotten to know all of them well yet. It is something I will continue to work on. For now, whenever possible, I will struggle out of bed at 6 AM on Wednesday mornings with an open heart and an open mind.

I recently switched jobs, and that has had a domino effect in my personal life. My old job was the kind that many Americans have: one part office politics, two parts career ladder with a just a pinch of corporate propaganda. Each morning had a certain ritualistic element to it, greeting fellow sojourners and imbibing nasty coffee that you tolerated because hey, free coffee!

My new job is the opposite in so many ways. Being remote means, in theory, working from anywhere. In practice anywhere is often home. Sometimes it means a coffee shop or a friend's apartment in another town... but almost always it means a lot of alone time. I am not attending regular happy hours with office mates anymore, or sharing jokes on the way to the bathroom. Convenience and proximity meant lots of shared lunch hours before. Now I don't usually eat breakfast or lunch at all during the week.

A few things happened right off the bat. First, I spent a lot more time in my head. Then, I realized a few really important things that I want to share. Maybe some of these will resonate with you?

Realization #1: Environment Is Everything

One of the many problems with modern American politics is the menu of choices we get to pick from. In many respects, our political environment constrains our choices and does not offer alternatives that might appeal to the majority. I leave it for you to dwell on that and consider why that might be the case.

These constrained environments dominate most of our lives if we look carefully: the sorts of products sold in grocery stores, the tropes and archetypes in popular television programs, and the pervasiveness of plastics are some examples. Consider the implications of the following: grocery chains only selling local produce, mainstream television promoting holistic alternatives to pharmaceuticals as a first line of treatment for disease, and restaurants banning the use of plastic in to-go orders.

Perhaps those are choices you would support. The trouble is there are few if any effective avenues for you to drive adoption of those things and support them. In a similar way, in your standard American office you often don't get to choose your choices or get full visibility into what the consequences of those choices are. Many offices fail to provide employees with natural lighting, time and/or dedicated spaces for rest, healthy food options on-site, etc.

Working remotely, my environment is defined by my choices. If I work nonstop for 7-9 hours, I will feel like junk afterwards. So instead I try to take a 5-10 minute break at least once every 2-3 hours, and whenever possible I still take a lunch break and spend it outside. These are things I have had to learn to do for my own sake.

Whenever possible, we should create the environments we need to succeed. Appreciate and take seriously the responsibility you have to yourself and others to create healthy environments. When you are out of balance, try to identify the environments you put yourself in and how you can improve them for yourself.

Realization #2: Prioritize Real Relationships Over Work

When I left my last job, I realized that I had done a bad job for years cultivating real relationships with people. I had met basic social needs through interactions with coworkers primarily, because that fit the fabric of my daily work schedule. My work environment (by design) implicitly encouraged maximum participation in work, and I slowly prioritized it over real community in my personal life. This was a clear choice that I made... I just didn't realize I was making it!

This sounds like common sense, but the more workaholic prone personalities amongst us can really get trapped here. When you switch to a job where your number of daily, casual social interactions precipitously drops, you come to realize the consequences of failing to prioritize real relationships and fostering community outside of work.

The trouble is that real relationships with people require work. They require taking initiative and making an effort to plan things. People have their own lives, and if you don't work towards being a part of other people's lives, you just aren't going to have much of a social life. Given that you have a finite amount of willpower and energy in a given day, this means better budgeting... and that might mean that you need to stop giving work every bit of energy and focus you have on any given day.

Realization #3: Cultivate Hobbies

When I was in college, it seemed like everyone did a better job of cultivating hobbies. I was out in nature more, kayaking and riding my bike through the parks often. After taking a film theory course I became a budding movie buff, watching old films and documentaries almost daily. Now that I'm older it feels like most people my age have stopped doing these kinds of thing. I definitely stopped!

Instead, most people work to live and they live for the weekend. Then on the weekends, they drink to cope with their work weeks. (Others just play video games nonstop when they are not working, get high at every opportunity, or a combination of these things.)

Leaving aside the financial and health burdens of frequent alcohol consumption, there are some other, less obvious problems with failing to cultivate real hobbies instead. It makes it more difficult to have things in common with other people. It makes life less interesting. It makes you less interesting.

Develop hobbies folks. Make an intentional practice of them at least weekly, if not more often. If you are unsure where to start of what to make a hobby out of, pick things that help you also end up in the right environments and prioritizing real relationships. Examples include volunteering with a local shelter, reading books on a broad variety of topics, or getting plugged into church groups.

It can also be helpful to identify why you stopped investing in hobbies. Do you remember a time when that wasn't the case? What changed? How can you rekindle that? The most obvious thing for me has been prioritizing sleep more. Another obvious one is pushing myself to exercise as consistently as possible.

Conclusion

One things I want to make very clear is that this post is not meant to disparage any current or private employer I have had. It is meant to share some of the things I've been thinking through lately, and share some of the steps I am taking to change things in my own life. Hopefully you got something out of this!

Sincerely,
Jess

Sound The Alarm

Recently, an old password of mine was leaked in a data dump. Two other sites I frequent use the same password — tsk tsk. I was fortunate enough to flag my stolen credit card number before any damage could be done, but some of my personal information was definitely downloaded. What degree of risk or personal harm that opens me up to is unclear.

Realizing that I had no excuse for poor security, I set about improving it.

Read more...