Monday, February 27, 2012

Day 6: What's Your Calling?

"For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully." - Romans 12:4-8, NIV

Today I had a terrific meeting with my faculty reading group. We've been looking at The Heart of Higher Education as we move toward an integrative learning framework this fall. One of the professors mentioned "vocation" and "calling." I wondered what, if anything, my few readers had to say about that? Do you feel like your job is just that? A job? Maybe a piece of a career? Or is it what you were called by some higher power to do?

I've had two former colleagues say that they saw in me a spiritual gift of administration. I hope they're right. 

During our discussion today I had a current colleague thank me for the "energy" I brought to the conversation. I think I was energetic because I felt passionate about what we were discussing. It feels like when you love what you're talking about, you have an innate energy to provide to others.

A few years ago, someone asked if I considered myself a "minister," because he saw my job that way. I haven't seen that in myself, but it has caused me to ponder. Am I ministering to others in what I do? Am I in my current position for a reason? Whose needs am I meeting?

What about you? Are you using your gifts in your workplace? How?

© Laura M. Botts, 2012  


Sunday, February 26, 2012

Day 5 of Lent

"While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying,'Take and eat; this is my body.' Then he took a cup, and when he had given thanks, he gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins. I tell you, I will not drink from this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father’s kingdom.'” - Matthew 26:26-29, NIV

As I understand it, the Sundays during Lent are "mini-Easters," days of joy in which Lenten deprivations need not be observed. In celebration of this Lenten loophole, I give you the verses above from "the last supper" of Jesus and his disciples without commentary. They celebrated the Passover meal together before life as the disciples knew it changed forever.

I hope you've had a good day today!

© Laura M. Botts, 2012  

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Day 4

"At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: 'You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.' At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted[g] by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him." - Mark 1:9-13, NIV

Today I decided to look at the Revised Common Lectionary readings for a writing prompt, and I found the verses above. I think most church-goers are familiar with the story of John baptizing Jesus as well as with the story of Jesus's temptation in the wilderness. But I'm not sure I've ever thought about the two being connected.

As soon as Jesus receives the Holy Spirit and is affirmed as God's son, the Spirit sends him out to endure forty days of temptation. Wow. What if we did that in our churches? "Congratulations on your baptism! We're glad you decided to show us that you've accepted Christ. Now, just to make sure, we're going to toss you in the desert for close to a month and a half of Satanic temptation. Relax, you'll do fine..." 

I have to say I'm glad we don't do this! However, I think God wants us to know we could handle it if we had to. See 1 Corinthians 10:13 for the evidence: "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." 

Remember that when you feel tempted. Jesus went through it, and he came out without giving in. God gives us a way out and won't let us endure more than we can handle. We, too, are His beloved sons and daughters. Hang in there!

© Laura M. Botts, 2012 

Friday, February 24, 2012

3rd Day of Lent, or "A Blogger in Search of a Topic"

"Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil. This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones." - Proverbs 3: 7-8, NIV

As I was thinking about what to write today, I tried to remember what had happened at work. I spent two hours in a meeting with our faculty senate, which is always interesting, but which didn't really yield any blog fodder. I also worked on a request from the university's marketing department for photos and captions from 100, 50, and 25 years ago. Also interesting, but not terribly exciting.

Then I thought back to early this morning. I was chatting with a colleague when our administrative assistant appeared and presented me with a gift. Ok, it was really for my department, but you get the idea.

She handed me a brand new first aid kit for Special Collections. It doesn't have everything we'd need for a serious emergency, of course, but it has bandages, an ice pack, some painkillers, and other assorted basics for everyday boo-boos. Sometimes that's all we need: enough to get by until we recover on our own.

Sometimes, though, that's not enough. We need real healing. Sustenance. Repair. Something that goes deeper than a Band-Aid®. We need something to heal the deepest wounds of our hearts and souls. For the Christian, that something is God, accessible to us via prayer, whether in audible or silent words, or even in our "wordless groans," as in Romans 8:26.

Do you need something more than a bandage and a painkiller? See if talking to God will make a bigger difference for you. It certainly can't hurt.

© Laura M. Botts, 2012 


Thursday, February 23, 2012

2nd Day of Lent

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus." - 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, NIV

Uh-oh. Look at those words up there. "Always." "Continually." "All." Once again, I find myself falling short of God's will. If I had written this letter, it probably would have said, "Rejoice when things are going well, pray when you need something, give thanks when you have something to be happy about..."   

But that's not what we're told to do. The verses remind us to do these things ALL the time! How on earth is that possible? Well, on earth it probably isn't. With some heavenly help, though? Maybe then we can tackle them. 

I don't think this passage is telling us that we will always be happy, that if we follow Jesus, life will be peaches and cream, or a barrel of monkeys, or whatever idiom you'd like to use. I see it more as reminding us that no matter what is going on, we can rejoice as Christians if we remember the bigger picture. Praying is just talking to God, right? And I regularly talk to myself "without ceasing," it seems. How much better off would I be if I spent that time talking -- and more importantly, listening -- to God?

If you have never read Corrie Ten Boom's book, The Hiding Place, let me recommend it to you. In thinking about these verses from 1 Thessalonians, I was reminded of her story about being thankful for fleas. Yes, fleas. You can find a transcription of that story here. I certainly can't say it any better.

I hope that this little post will remind you ME to look for the joy in every situation, to give thanks for things that seem insignificant, and to quiet my internal chatter long enough to listen. Lent is a season of preparation, not of despair. Look toward the joy, and be thankful on the journey.     

© Laura M. Botts, 2012 

Happy Lent! (Nothing about Archives)

“Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” - Colossians 3:23-24, NIV

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of the season of Lent. Although the whole church calendar ultimately leads us to the joy of Easter morning, we focus on it most during this part of the year. For the next forty days, Christians around the world will spend time reflecting on Christ’s journey to the cross. Many of them will make sacrifices designed to draw them closer to God. Some will give up a favorite food or a particular behavior, trusting in God to help them through any temptations they face along the way.

I’m a lifelong Baptist and have never done “the Lent thing.” My church celebrates various seasons of the liturgical calendar, but not to the extent that many other congregations do. It’s still kind of new to me. I asked some friends what they were giving up for Lent, and was intrigued that some of them choose to focus on positive additions to their lives instead of doing away with something. As one said, “I don't think it's about giving up for giving up's sake. I think it's about doing that which brings you closer to the love of God.” Another friend suggested writing something every day, a devotion or meditation. I had been thinking about doing some writing, so I liked that idea. I’m no biblical scholar, but I wanted to do something tying scripture or inspirational writings to my life and work (and whatever else I might think of).

So here we are, Day 1. I don’t promise to write every single day, but we’ll see what happens.

I chose the verse at the top from, a site that came up in my search for a “random Bible verse.” The site says that they use a preselected list of verses, but you get a random selection from those choices. In light of my desire to write about work, I thought it was appropriate. However, I don’t want to try and explain Paul’s (or anyone else’s) theology; my only goal is to share some reflections on my thoughts about the verses or writings I find. So, back to Colossians.

There are days when I don’t feel like giving my all at work, or at home, or in the church choir, or when I’m shopping at Walmart. But this verse tells us that we should work wholeheartedly at WHATEVER we’re doing. Wow. That’s not easy, is it? Certainly not for me. But as a Christian, it’s what I should be doing. I’m not working for my own glory and recognition. I’m not working to make my boss happy, although she probably appreciates it if I work hard. No, I’m supposed to work at whatever task is at hand “as working for the Lord.” If you ask me, that sets the bar pretty high.

But keep reading. The incentive for me to work hard and serve Christ is mighty compelling. An inheritance? That sounds good. “An inheritance from the Lord as a reward”? I can’t think of anything I’d rather receive when my shift on this earth is over.

© Laura M. Botts, 2012 

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Word about Cover Letters

My library recently conducted a successful search for an instruction librarian, a faculty position with duties involving reference, subject liaison work, and the coordination of our instruction program. We made a terrific hire, but the search committee read through a lot of less than stellar cover letters during the review process. In looking back, there were a few things I wanted to share. If you are looking for a job, I hope this is helpful.
  • Even if the job ad doesn't specifically tell you to do so, please address the specifics of the ad in your cover letter or online application. I'd like to see something that says why you want to work at my institution and what appeals to you about this job. It's not hard for us to spot generic letters that you're sending out to every place with a job announcement. Do your homework, and make us feel special! (At the very least, double check the job title and contact information before you submit the document. We're embarrassed for you if we know you didn't update the letter before sending it to us.) 

  • If you are currently in a geographically distant location, it wouldn't hurt to say something about why you would like to relocate. If this is your first professional job, that's fine. If you'll be closer to your family or your alma mater or your favorite beach, that's fine, too. You don't have to reveal personal details, but please indicate that you're aware there will be a move involved. If you've always wanted to live in middle Georgia and love hot, humid summers, say so! Otherwise, we may wonder why you'd want to leave your current area, but we might not put you through to the phone call or interview stage in order to ask you.

  • If you are currently employed in an institution that is markedly different from the one you're applying to, tell us why you'd like to make a change. For example, 
    • what would you see as the advantages of working at a small private university if you work in a large research institution?
    • do you like wearing a variety of hats instead of being pigeonholed into one kind of job all day?
    • is the position a logical career move, perhaps from a staff to a faculty status or becoming a department head?
    • do you want to work closely with a small group of colleagues?
    • does the smaller institution have a reputation for innovation or something that intrigues you?
Remember, job searches are expensive. We can't afford to bring every qualified candidate to campus for an in-person interview, so tell us what you think we need to know. Don't leave us wondering why you want to work with us; specify why you'd be a great candidate and why you'd love the job. It's ok to show some personality in your cover letter. Your goal is to make it to the next round of phone calls or in-person interviews, at which point we'll be talking to the candidates who rose to the top of a heap of applications. You can make our search a little easier by standing out from the crowd!