Coram Deo ~

Looking at contemporary culture from a Christian worldview


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Find Work That Will Allow You to Play to Your Strengths

Have you ever had work that just drained or weakened you? Perhaps it was an activity or a particular meeting that you just dreaded? Years ago, for me it was strategic planning sessions. I really dreaded them.
In 2007 Marcus Buckingham published his book Go Put Your Strengths to Work: 6 Powerful Steps to Achieve Outstanding Performance. In a sea of business and professional development books, this was a book that really resonated with me. I read it once on my own, and then two more times in book clubs. In addition, our team watched a companion video titled “Trombone Player Wanted”.
Around that same time, our organization had a helpful “Building Leadership Skills” program, in which leadership and non-leadership associates who wanted to grow in their leadership skills read and discussed Buckingham’s book The Truth About You: Your Secret to Success as a group. That book was an abridged version of Go Put Your Strengths to Work. Our organization (and I) was “all in” on Buckingham’s “Strengths Revolution”.
Although there was a lot of excellent information in these books, here’s what I remember, and what continues to be helpful, more than ten years later. Some work (activities) strengthen us, and some weaken us. What strengthens me, may weaken you. Our goal should be to find work that strengthens us (lets us play to our strengths) as much of the time as possible.
In the books, Buckingham has you record all of your work activities (meetings, etc.) for a period of time (a week or two). After each activity is completed, you indicate whether the activity strengthened you or weakened you. Based on this information, you develop strength and weakness statements. That activity was eye-opening for me. Yes, strategic planning sessions really weakened me. Working with team members and mentees who were proactive about their development definitely strengthened me. Although we can rarely design a job completely to our specifications, this exercise helped me to find work for myself, and others, that would strengthen them.
I can clearly remember watching “Trombone Player Wanted” with my team. It was clear that some were excited about the concepts discussed, while others felt it was just the next “flavor of the month”, and they tuned out. For one team member, Del,  it helped him understand why he wasn’t successful on a particular assignment, and what work he needed to find to be successful at. Another team member, Jim, really bought into the strengths movement as well. Jim and I would continue to work together for the much of the next eleven years, and we would often talk about work that either strengthened him or weakened him.
We are all wired differently. The work that strengthens you, may weaken me. I recommend that you check out these books by Marcus Buckingham to help find the work that strengthens you.


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Complaining to God

Note – This is a guest blog by Tammy Pence, my wife.  She loves to sing, so has inserted links to songs, etc. for you along the way, and has put in bold print verses that would be great to memorize.
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Have you ever had a spiritual crisis of faith?  Have you ever heard of the book of Habakkuk in the Bible?  Who names a kid Habakkuk?  Who knew that ol’ Huck’s story could help us in this time of coronavirus crisis, or any time of doubt and need?

Habakkuk is struggling with questions of faith, so he takes them in prayer to God; His covenant God is the only one that can answer him.  He is weighed down by this broken world, but persists in prayer even when it seemed God was not listening.  Huck says that’s he’s going to stand at his watchpost/tower and wait for an answer from God to his seemingly hopeless situation.  Huck’s a bit sassy, isn’t he?

COMPLAINTS

“Are my prayers stopping at the ceiling?  Do you hear me God?” “Why does evil seem to go unpunished?  Seems like nasty wicked people are prospering and ruling!”  “Is there no justice?”  And maybe even, “are you sovereign and in control?”  “Are you indifferent?”  “CAN YOU HEAR ME, GOD!”

Fill in the blank with your own complaints and questions. __________________

GOD’S ANSWERS Continue reading


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MUSIC REVIEWS and NEWS

American Standard – James Taylor
****

American Standard is James Taylor’s 19th studio album, and first new album since 2015’s Before This World. The songs on the album are songs he has always known. He writes in the liner notes that most were part of his family’s record collection, the first music he heard as a kid growing up in North Carolina.
Work on the album began a little over two years ago when John Pizzarelli joined Taylor at the Barn, his recording studio in Massachusetts to work on a few songs. Taylor loved the sound of their two guitars together, and that forms the basic sound of these songs, giving it the feel of Taylor’s early recordings. As he reinterprets these songs, he is supported by his regular family of players who tour and record with him, as well as contributions from Viktor Krauss (upright bass), Stuart Duncan (violin) and Jerry Douglas (dobro). The album is produced by Taylor, along with Dave O’Donnell and John Pizzarelli.
Below are a few comments about each of the songs on the album:

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More of this review and reviews of
    • More Blood, More Tracks: The Bootleg Series Vol. 14 – Bob Dylan
    • Live from the NATIVE TONGUE Tour – Switchfoot
  • Music News
  • Song of the Week Lyrics

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My Review of EMMA.

EMMA., rated PG
** ½

EMMA., newly available on home video, is the latest film adaptation of the last novel published by Jane Austen during her lifetime. Set in England in the 1800’s, the film features beautiful costumes, beautiful scenery, good production design and solid acting, but the two-hour film moves slowly, and doesn’t get interesting until the final thirty minutes. The film is directed by Autumn de Wilde in his feature film debut, and the screenplay is written by Eleanor Catton. Emma Woodhouse is played by Anya Taylor-Joy (Glass, Split). She lives with her wealthy father, played by Golden Globe winner Bill Nighy (Gideon’s Daughter, Love Actually, Pirates of the Caribbean), on a giant estate in the English countryside. Her lifelong friend George Knightly, played by Johnny Flynn, lives across a field and comes by the estate frequently. George knows Emma well, and is one of the only people in her life that can honestly speak to the selfish, arrogant and at times rude young woman. Emma doesn’t have much that she has to do, so she has taken to matchmaking, specifically with Harriet Smith, an orphaned girl of unknown parentage, living at a local girl’s school, played by Mia Goth. Harriet has taken a liking to Mr. Martin, a widowed farmer, played by Connor Swindells. Emma believes that Harriet can do better, and Harriet trusts her, so Emma convinces Harriet to turn down Mr. Martin’s proposal and instead tries to match her up with the local vicar, the unlikeable Mr. Elton, played by Josh O’Connor (The Crown). Continue reading


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BOOK REVIEWS and NEWS


New Life in Christ: What Really Happens When You’re Born Again and Why It Matters by Steven Lawson. Baker Books. 224 pages. 2020
****

In this book, pastor Steven Lawson considers the new birth by looking at Jesus’s well-known encounter nighttime encounter with Nicodemus in John 3. I have seen the author preach on numerous occasions, and as Sinclair Ferguson writes in the “Foreword”, you may, as I did, hear his voice preaching as you read this book, which reads like one of his preaching series, and is a nice companion to his Ligonier Ministries teaching series The New Birth.
What does it mean to be born again? The author tells us that being born again means that God implants divine life within our spiritually dead heart. He tells us that there are two sides of the entrance into the kingdom of God. On one side is the person’s activity. The other side involves God’s activity. God must cause a person to be born again, which, in turn, produces saving faith. It is the new birth that enables us to receive Jesus Christ into our life. Similarly, R.C. Sproul would often say that “regeneration proceeds faith”.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:
BOOK REVIEWS ~ More of this review… and reviews of
~ Making a Difference: Impacting Culture and Society as a Christian by R.C. Sproul and
~ I Still Believe: A Memoir of Wreckage, Recovery, and Relentless Love. Russ and Tori Taff with Mark Smeby
BOOK NEWS ~ Links to Interesting Articles
BOOK CLUB ~ The Gospel According to Jesus by John MacArthur
I’M CURRENTLY READING…. Continue reading


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Don’t Waste This Time


How quickly things can change. A matter of days ago, I was watching Spring Training baseball games and anticipating the upcoming baseball season, the Players Championship in golf and the NCAA “March Madness” basketball tournament. Life was going on as usual, with my wife Tammy and I eating out, going to the movies, and watching the stock market hit new record highs every few days. We were looking forward to flying to Florida on March 17 for a conference.  People were working as usual, and schools were approaching their Spring Break.
I had never heard the terms “social distancing” nor “flatten the curve”. I heard reports of a new virus that was devastating a city in China that I had never heard of, but never expected that it would – and so quickly – come to the United States and my own community. But in today’s connected world, a deadly virus can travel from China to California on one airline flight. And with it, all of a sudden restaurants and schools are closed, vacations are cancelled, people are working from home, churches have resorted to holding online services and toilet paper, hand sanitizer and Clorox wipes have become the hottest items in town.
As I write this, a “stay at home” order has just gone into effect for my state of Illinois. You can still go to the grocery store, pharmacy, doctor’s office, and even get “take out” from your favorite restaurant. But the idea is that we are to stay home and avoid contact with others to stop the spread of the virus. With no sports to watch, and most everything on the 24-hour news networks having to do with the virus, what are we to do with this time that we have been given. Yes, I believe that we can look at this time as a gift. We can use this time to look at items of eternal significance. Continue reading


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FAITH AND WORK: Connecting Sunday to Monday

Faith and Work News ~ Links to Interesting Articles

  • How Cancer Gave Me a New Perspective on Work. Chip Roper writes “Medical work, which we have now been the regular recipients of for eight months, can teach us something about work in general.”
  • How to Pray When You Hate Your Job. Tom Nelson writes “We may deeply struggle with our work, our workplaces, and the fellow image bearers we encounter in our vocational responsibilities. Yet it is in and through our jobs that we are called to provide for our material needs, to worship God, to be spiritually formed, to incarnate and proclaim the gospel and indwell common grace for the common good.”
  • Experiencing God’s Presence in my Military Service (Part 2). Our friend Russell Gehrlein writes “This is the second article of a two-part series on this topic. In part 1, I reflected on five aspects of how I experienced God’s presence as I served in and with the U.S. Army over the past 34 years.  Here, I would like to continue to expand my thoughts by covering my next five observations.”
  • The Intrinsic Value of Business to God. Bill Peel writes “The Bible provides rich resources Christian business leaders can use to guide their vision for enterprises that glorify God.”
  • Teaching Kids to Live as Christians Through Work. Andrew Spencer writes about his desire that his children learn to value work.

Click on ‘Continue reading’ for:

  • More links to interesting articles
  • The Top 10 Faith and Work Quotes of the Week
  • My Reviews of The Leader’s Greatest Return: Attracting, Developing, and Multiplying Leaders by John Maxwell and An Uncommon Guide to Retirement: Finding God’s Purpose for the Next Season of Life by Jeff Haanen
  • Snippets from Os Guinness’ book “The Call: Finding and Fulfilling God’s Purpose For Your Life”

Continue reading