Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Easter's Wonders: The Victor of Sheol

By the time I toddled, the day was joy,
The family, the sun, the birth of spring,
Mirth emerged as a puppy with a toy,
Easter came and life was towering.

All this, apart from knowing truth,
All this, without a meeting of the king,
All this, amid my soul's uncouth,
All this, with rebellion lingering.

Then, the day changed from wonder to wonder.
Resurrection overshadowed painted eggs,
The joy of Jesus came like thunder,
His healing grace took even my dregs.

New mirth emerges for the crucified king,
New birth refreshes my stale soul,
New mercies cover my wandering,
New worship to the Victor of Sheol.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

PSA: 9 Email Etiquette Tips for the 21st Century

With nearing 2 decades of email experience in a variety of sectors, I would like to offer these rules to live by:

1) Email should avoid subjects of an emotional nature (unless you are writing your grandma about the arrival of your new baby...but seriously, she'd rather have you call or bring the baby over to her house). Regardless of writing personal or work related emails, do not use email to share strong opinions, feelings, dislikes, or to express frustration. Please extend the recipient of such conversations their due dignity by inviting them to a personal  meeting or if a meeting is not possible due to travel, a phone call.

2) Stick to questions and statements related to facts, scheduling, and agendas. If you want to know if Tom can meet next Tuesday at 2PM, send an email. If you want to know if Tom would rather meet for Italian or Chinese, send an email. If you want to know if Tom likes his job, do not send an email. If you want to know why your first cousin skipped your daughter's bat mitzvah, do not send an email. (See #1 for more details.)

3) Always include a subject that gives the reader a decent insight into the message's content.

4) Note that bolded text (except when used for formatting purposes), ALL-CAPS expressions, and exclamation points come across as angry screaming to the recipient!!!! Avoid or use with caution. Since you aren't dealing in the realm of emotions or opinions (see #1), much of these kinds of expressions will not be needed in your email.

5) Be brief. Admittedly, I have learned  over the years that my brevity has come across as rudeness on various occasions. So, be careful not to be so brief that you sound curt or terse. Still, with the amount of email we all deal with, the more direct you are about the subject matter, the more time we save for one another.

6) Only request one to two actions. Try not to send your boss, coworker, or spouse an email asking them to answer 5 questions, commit to pull off 5 tasks, and submit 4 different reports by morning. Stick with 1-2 questions with 1-2 responses. If you have a variety or questions or requests, you might need to ask for 10-15 minutes of their time for a conversation. Or just send multiple emails (see #9's cautions on sending more emails).

7) Do not send work email outside of work hours or expect others to reply. Since many people get their work email on their phones, at home, or wherever they might be, try to only send email between 7:30AM and 5:30PM (or whatever are your company's work hours). There are many free pieces of software that allow you to schedule an email's arrival. So even if you are working and sending email at 1AM in your superhero pajamas, your coworkers don't need to read the email till after their first cup of coffee. If you really need to know something from a coworker after work hours, call them on the phone.

8) When in doubt, don't send the email. If you wonder if the email might not be appropriate, don't send it. If you debate whether your boss will appreciate a forwarded message, skip it entirely (for that matter, skip most forwards entirely...we read that joke last year anyway).

9) Use email less and less. Its convenience has made it an inconvenience. Email has turned "water cooler conversations" into a thing of the past. Too little talking and too much typing has dehumanized our lives, workplaces, and friendships. So stop by your boss's office, stand up to ask a question to your cube-mate, and use your phone for it's original purpose (to talk with your voice, in case you've forgotten).

Do any of you have other tips or suggestions you've come to discern through your journey in the digital age?

Monday, March 16, 2015

Might history repeat itself

On September 23, 1857, at high noon, a businessman named Jeremiah Lanphier was sitting near the rear entrance of a Dutch Reformed Church in New York City. He had planned to meet for prayer for anyone willing to join him that day. At 12PM no one arrived. After 10 minutes, Jeremiah was pacing. With 20 minutes gone by, he’d probably given up hope.
                1857 was a hard year for New York City. Unemployment was high in the wake of some unprofitable speculation. When Jeremiah Lanphier looked at the city and its challenges, he could have started getting involved in a myriad of ways. He could have opened a soup kitchen, started job training courses, or began teaching immigrants English.
What moved him, however, was a call to see people begin again to pray for the city. And so he printed a small invitation and began passing them out on the streets of New York City. Here is some of what was written on this card:

As often as the language of prayer is in my heart; as often as I see my need of help; as often as I feel the power of temptation; as often as I am made sensible of any spiritual declension or feel the aggression of a worldly spirit.

In prayer we leave the business of time for that of eternity, and intercourse with men for intercourse with God.

A day Prayer Meeting is held every Wednesday, from 12 to 1 o'clock, in the Consistory building in the rear of the North Dutch Church, corner of Fulton and William Streets (entrance from Fulton and Ann Streets).

This meeting is intended to give merchants, mechanics, clerks, strangers, and businessmen generally an opportunity to stop and call upon God amid the perplexities incident to their respective avocations. It will continue for one hour; but it is also designed for those who may find it inconvenient to remain more than five or ten minutes, as well as for those who can spare the whole hour.

                Back at the first prayer meeting, Jeremiah waited a full 30 minutes before he heard the footsteps of his first prayer warrior. Six people in all showed up at the first prayer meeting. At the next meeting  40 people gathered. Before one month had elapsed, the prayer meeting moved from weekly to daily. After 1 year, 5,000 citizens of NYC were praying daily.
                So too, prayer meetings sprung up across the nation…in Baltimore, Richmond, Charleston, Chicago and the like. In due time there was revival across the US, in Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and Australia. Many people believe the call to pray from Jeremiah Lanphier was God’s means to raise up the great ministries of DL Moody, the Salvation Army, the missionary to China Hudson Taylor, and the beginning of many Bible training institutes across the globe.

                Why do I recount this history? I tell you because I believe revival is possible. I tell you because I believe revival is common. But most of all to remind us, that revival starts small. It often starts with Christian individuals recommitting to seek the LORD God. It starts with Christians repenting from sin and pleading for grace. It starts with people who hunger for God in Word and prayer.