conversation is an engine

A lot can happen in a conversation

Posts Tagged ‘Job

(Please Write this Book) Busted, Berated & Celebrated: The Job for Anyone

leave a comment »

Is Job the Michael Bluth of the Bible?10282013-250px-Michael_Bluth

Now the story of a wealthy family who lost everything and the one [man] who had no choice but to, well…. It’s arrested development—with a twist: It’s Job’s tale, but with the focus shifted from his unjust suffering to a character trait everyone depended on.

He brokered peace for others.

Job had a habit of conciliating for his kids: after every round of feasting and drinking, he offered sacrifices, reasoning that just in case his kids cursed God, maybe his own intervention (which looked a lot like pleading) could help out. Just in case. This was Job’s habit.

And in the end, it worked. More on that in a moment

Would someone write this book? I want to read about how this habit of seeking help for others is more than just a pleasant idiosyncrasy of a hurting old man. Please unravel the mystery of this central piece of the story. I’d like know more about how Job’s habit of conciliation served as bookends to the entire story-with the Almighty making himself available (at least partly) because of Job’s habit. I’d like to read about how the right-sounding-but-flawed arguments delivered all the way through only reinforce how blinded we get in our self-righteousness. And how even the self-righteous need help in the end. I’d like someone to belabor the connection between what it means to care for others when you yourself are broken—wait, maybe Henri Nouwen already wrote that.

Please write Busted, Berated & Celebrated: The Job For Anyone.

I’ll read it.

I may even buy it.


Image credit: Wikipedia

Written by kirkistan

October 28, 2013 at 5:00 am

How to Hold God Accountable

with 2 comments

3 Surprises About the Almighty


There is an old story of a wealthy man whose seven sons and three daughters continually held rounds of parties. The sons and daughters would meet at one son’s house to eat and drink. Next day they all met at the next son’s house for more food and drink. And so it went, day after day until all had hosted. Then they began again.

The wealthy man was pleased at their joy but worried that some son or daughter might curse God in a fit of exuberant boasting or perhaps just deep in her or his heart. So he took steps: after every cycle of feasting and drinking, he would rise early in the morning and make offerings. In this way he consecrated his children.

The wealthy man was known far and wide for his wealth but also for being a blameless and upright man. Everything seemed to go the right direction for this man and his family.

Until it didn’t.

In this old story, the man absorbed a one-two punch: he lost all this wealth and his children. Then he lost his health. Like any absorbing movie, that’s where the story really begins.

You may recognize the story of Job. A lot of people read themselves into Job’s story: things are going well and then whammo—the winged monkeys descend outa nowhere. And then as one professor liked to say, you are left to “sit with” the problems, the questions and the profound distress, scraping your sores with broken pots. If you can make it through all 42 chapters of Job, you’ll notice some surprises.

  • Surprise #1: Job’s pals comforted him with arguments any of us if-we-do-good-we’ll-receive-good theorists might use. In each case they were sorta right but mostly wrong.
  • Surprise #2: Life is full of a fair amount of un-knowing. Well that’s no surprise. But it’s worth repeating in our culture where we demand black and white answers to most of life’s vexations. Sometimes stuff happens and we never really know why/how/who/what.
  • Surprise #3: God can be held accountable—at least as far as our questions go. Which is not to say we’ll receive answers. But the questions…it’s the questions that spur conversation. And in Job’s story God was interested in the conversation.

Wait–stay with me:

This third surprise is tricky and I’ve added a gloss that does not quite ring true. We may want to hold God accountable for the bad stuff that happens, but there are a lot of reasons why we cannot (just) do that. We could talk more about that and have a thrilling conversation. But what I can say after living with Job for a couple months is that conversation with God is, well, it just may well be everything. The most important thing. The central thing—especially after the winged monkeys and sitting with job loss or death and the scraping of open sores with broken pots—the central thing may be this conversation.


Image credit: Lara Shipley and Antone Dolezal via Lenscratch

Written by kirkistan

October 23, 2013 at 7:23 am

Posted in Ancient Text, Prayer, story

Tagged with , ,

Get a Job. Or Don’t.

with 2 comments

Rethinking My Standard Line on Employment

What to say to folks starting in this job market?

I’m gearing up to teach a couple professional writing classes at the University of Northwestern—St. Paul. I’ll be updating my syllabi, looking at a new text or two. I’ve got some new ideas about how the courses should unfold and about how I can get more discussion and less of that nasty blathery/lecture stuff from me. I’ll be thinking about writing projects that move closer to what copywriters and content strategists do day in and day out.


Yeah: don’t bind your legs when you really need to take action.

One thing I’m also doing is reconsidering the standard advice for people on the cusp of a working life. I usually tell the brightest students—the ones who want to write for a living and show every indication of being capable of carrying that out—to start with a company. Starting with a company helps pay down debt, provides health insurance (often) and best of all, you learn the ropes and cycles of the business and industry. I’ve often thought of those first jobs out of college as a sort of finishing school or mini-graduate school where you get paid to learn the details of an industry (or industries). Those first jobs can set a course the later jobs. And those first friendships bloom in all sorts of unlikely ways as peers also make their way through work and life. You connect and reconnect for years and years.

But I’m no longer so certain of that advice. While it’s true that companies and agencies and marketing firms provide terrific entry ramps to the work world, they also open the door to some work habits that are not so great. Every business has its own culture, of course. Sometimes that culture looks like back-biting and demeaning and discouraging. Sometimes the work culture can be optimistic and recognize accomplishment and encouraging and fun. Mostly it’s a mix of both.

But one thing I don’t want these bright students to learn at some corporate finishing school is the habit of just doing their job. By that I mean the habit of waiting for someone to tell them what to do. Every year I watch talented friends get laid off from high-powered jobs in stable industries where they worked hard at exactly what they were asked to do. And most everyone at some point says something like:

Wait—I should have been thinking all along about what I want to do. [or]

How can I be more entrepreneurial with my skill set? [or]

What exactly is my vision for my work life?

Some of these bright writing students are meant to be entrepreneurial from the very beginning. Though a rocky and difficult path in getting established with clients and earning consistently, it may be a more stable way to live down the road. Maybe “stable” is not quite the right word for the entrepreneurial bent—“sustainable” might be more appropriate. The quintessential habit to learn is to depend on yourself (while also asking God for help, you understand) rather than waiting for someone to come tell you what to do.

I’m eager for these bright, accomplished people to think beyond the narrow vision of just getting a job. The vision they develop will power all sorts of industries over time.


Image credit: arcaneimages, via rrrick/2headedsnake

Westgate Centre: The New Old Face of Affliction

leave a comment »

Jihad, Jabs, Jobs and Job


Affliction is the bad stuff that happens. Today affliction looks like Westgate centre in Nairobi. It also looks like colleagues laid off after five, ten, 35 years of high-performance work for a company. Affliction can look like old age, like a shoulder with a pinched nerve, like legs becoming less-than-steady. Affliction looks like a chronic condition (heart, pain, fatigue). All the stuff that showers down on individuals and groups. All the bad and regrettable stuff, minor and major. All the stuff we would never choose (in a million years).

My new favorite old guy is Job. I’ve been dwelling with the story of his life and times and find his persistence, presence and engagement remarkable. One of Job’s friends, in a fit of knowing what to say (which passed for all the players in this drama) said this about Job’s affliction:

[God] delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity. He also allured you out of distress into a broad place where there was no cramping, and what was set on your table was full of fatness.

Elihu, the young buck who waited for all the old guys to finally shut up, also didn’t get it right. His words did not adequately describe the complex of Job’s predicament. Still his words (quoted above) contain wisdom: looking for deliverance in the middle of the affliction. In the end, his words proved true: Job sat at that table. And Job was thoroughly changed when he did so.

Is there deliverance in the horribleness at Westgate centre? I’m praying so. Is there deliverance after a loyal career? Yes, though the former careerist will be changed in the process. Is there deliverance from pinched nerves, unsteady legs, chronic conditions? Is there deliverance from old age? No. And Yes. And ultimately…yes.

And justice? That’s the very large conversation Job insisted on having—right up to where he fell silent. But affliction: is it somehow a way forward?


Image credit: Philipp Igumnov via MPD

Written by kirkistan

September 24, 2013 at 8:44 am

%d bloggers like this: