Sometimes you just do not know

Picture an office filled with men, each doing his own job, each living his own life. None of them really knows any of the others. (I have made all the workers men just for the ease of using the same pronoun. Any of these people could easily be a woman. The personalities and situations are not gender-specific.)

A is grouchy and surly when he comes to work. He says he is not a morning person. He does not mention his routine of three drinks every evening, with the standard hangover each day that does not disappear until lunchtime.

B is also grouchy and surly when he comes to work. He never mentions his digestive tract problems which cause pain and discomfort throughout the day but which are worse in the morning.

C is grouchy and surly but blames it on the traffic. He does not know that he has an anxiety disorder which causes him to overreact to incidents on the highway.

D is generally in a good mood when he arrives at work. He is in good health, is involved in a strong relationship, and is in decent financial shape.

E is also generally in a good mood when he arrives at work. He is in a poor financial situation and has no strong relationships, but he is either too deep or too shallow to let these things shape his mood at work.

F seems generally in a good mood at work. He is compensating for ongoing depression, coping with life by pretending to have no problems or concerns.

G arrives at work a few minutes late. He and his wife started the day with a romantic encounter, but that information is far too private to share with his coworkers.

H also arrives at work a few minutes late. He and his wife had an argument over breakfast about the family budget, but that information is far too private to share with his coworkers.

J is generally quiet at work. He is an introvert and is most comfortable working on his computer, not relating directly to other people.

K is generally quiet at work. He is developing a short story in his head and is absorbed in the characters and the plot.

L is generally quiet at work. He is planning a terrorist attack in the coming days and wants to be sure that he does not reveal his plans to anyone.

M is generally quiet at work. He hates his job and has been filling out job applications for every opening he can find.

And so it goes. None of these men really knows any of the others. They never discuss religion or politics–no one knows who in the office is a Christian, who is atheist, or who is agnostic. No one knows who voted for Hillary Clinton, who voted for Donald Trump, who voted for a third party candidate, and who did not vote. The supervisor evaluates their work without knowing which of his employees are exerting themselves in extraordinary ways to overcome problems and which are lazy and are capable of doing far more than they accomplish. When they form a team to finish a project, no one knows who is excited about the project, who is frightened by the project, and who is bored with the project.

Life is like this sometimes. We wear our masks, play our roles, and hide our identities so deeply that some of us even forget who we are. Some go home to families where they can be themselves; others must continue to play a role at home. Some have friends who accept them as they are; others perform for their friends and hide their real selves. Some can be themselves at church, while others put on an act before their brothers and sisters in the faith. Some are genuine in the face of the one true God; others try to perform even for Him.

God knows each of us–our problems, our blessings, our thoughts, even the number of hairs on our heads. He made us, and He is constantly aware of each of us. No matter who you and I pretend to be at work, at home, or out in the world, we can never fool God, and we never should try. Each of us is a sinner who desperately needs a Savior. Each of us is rescued, forgiven, and claimed for the Kingdom of God by the work of Jesus Christ on our behalf. We have different resources, different abilities, and different opportunities, just as the human body consists of eyes and ears and hands and feet and many other parts. God loves all of us and can support each of us in any difficulty. J.

Sunshine Blogger Award

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to “bloggers who are positive and creatively inspire others in the blogosphere”. Or so I’m told. The awesome, amazing, astounding, and always adorable “Authentically Aurora” nominated me for this award a few days ago, and I am pleased to accept. Thank you, Aurora, from the bottom of my heart.

Here are the rules:

  1. Thank the person who nominated you
  2. Answer the questions from the person who has nominated you
  3. Nominate 11 other bloggers for this award
  4. Write the same number of questions for the bloggers you have nominated
  5. Notify the bloggers you nominated

 

Having already thanked AA, I will now comply with rule number two. The final three steps will have to wait until the end of the week, but I am working on it, I promise.

And, by the way, this happens to be post number 300 on Salvageable.

What is your biggest dream?

My biggest dream is to be a successful writer. By successful, I do not mean rich and famous. I want the things I write to be meaningful and helpful to readers. I would like to believe that at least one thing I have written will have enduring value—that it will be meaningful and helpful even after I have long shuffled off this mortal coil.

If you could go anywhere in the world, where would you go?

My first inclination is to say that I would like to return to my childhood home. Readers of last week’s posts will know that such a visit is no longer possible. I have no burning desire to visit any one place, but I would like some day to see the major sites of Europe, west Asia, and Egypt. On the other hand, China and Japan also interest me. And India….

Do you consider yourself an introvert or an extrovert?

Undoubtedly an introvert. On a scale of one to ten, where one is totally introverted, ten is totally extraverted, and five is purely ambiverted, I would probably score a two. Maybe one and three quarters.

Is what you’re doing now what you always wanted to do growing up?

“Always” is a big word. As a boy, I dreamed of being an astronaut, a preacher, a police officer, a professional baseball player, and an author. As I grew older, author became the main dream. Then I realized that, whatever I did, I wanted to do for Christ and the Church. I received a proper education and began full-time work in the church. After two moves, I realized that what I was doing was not what I really wanted to do. Mid-life crisis? Near nervous breakdown? I’m not entirely sure. I found a different full-time job in the secular world, one that sometimes involves writing but is not focused on writing. I also have two part-time jobs, which keeps me busy. Having the opportunity to write, to teach, and to share the Word of God, I think I am doing what I was meant to do, and that’s good enough for me.

Do you usually follow your heart or your head?

My head. I am Mr. Spock in human flesh. Even my career change, mentioned above, was carefully calculated, not an impulse or a whim.

What are you most thankful for? 

I am most thankful for redemption through Jesus Christ. Without his saving work, nothing I have and nothing I do would have any value.

What’s on your bucket list this year?

I am not a bucket-list kind of person. I tend to live more I the moment, one day at a time. That said, I will have the chance next summer to see something I have always wanted to see—a total eclipse of the sun. Missing that would be an enormous disappointment, so I hope the sky is clear that day.

What’s your favorite food ever?

That depends upon a great many things. At this moment, I am going to say a traditional German dinner of sauerbraten and several sides. The best German food I’ve ever eaten was in the Amana Colonies in Iowa, not far from Iowa City. Over the years, I have learned how to make a respectable sauerbraten in my slow-cooker. In fact, I made some last Sunday.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever gotten?

When I was preparing to go to college, heading towards a career in the Church, my father said, “J., don’t go to a Christian college. Go to a school where you will learn about the world and about how people think in the world outside the Church.” I took his advice. In religion classes I learned about the historical-critical method of studying the Bible, and in other classes I was exposed to a wide variety of thoughts and attitudes. I also learned how to defend the Christian faith in a hostile environment. As a result, when I began graduate school, I knew what the professors were talking about when they warned us against those things. And I have known how to discuss these things with more light and less heat than happens among many Christian apologists.

Which of the places you’ve traveled to inspired you the most, and why?

When I was in high school, my grandparents gave money at Christmas to my parents so the three of us could have a nice vacation in the summer. We went twice to the Grand Tetons near Yellowstone National Park and twice to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado, staying on guest ranches each vacation. Being up in those mountains was truly inspiring, and I have enduring memories of those trips.

 

My job is not complete until I have nominated other bloggers for this award, but I am done writing for today. More will come later in the week. J.

sunshine-blogger-award

Introvert talking here

Arthur Dent never got the hang of Thursdays. For me, Saturday is the hardest day of the week. I don’t know why. Last fall I tried going to work on Saturday mornings to make the day seem normal, but even at work I still felt unsettled, shaky, and apprehensive.

One morning last week I woke up with that Saturday feeling, even though it wasn’t Saturday. This time I had a reason to feel unsettled: several weeks earlier I had promised to speak to a group of people that morning. It seemed like a good idea when I made the promise, but somehow that morning I didn’t feel ready. My sudden case of stage fright felt just like an anxiety attack, only one with a cause.

I took speech classes in high school and in college. Working for churches, I have had to stand in front of groups of people and talk. Generally I’m fine in the classroom teaching a group of students. I have no idea why this week’s scheduled session should have seemed different to my inner self.

For between four and five years, I was fortunate enough to work alongside the world’s best communications/public relations professional. When this person asked me to speak to a group of people on behalf of our employer, I wanted to say no, but I allowed myself to be persuaded. (For one thing, this speech gave me a chance to promote a book I had just written.) Figuratively speaking, my co-worker held my hand through the preparation and the presentation, and it went fine. When other speaking opportunities arose, I always turned to my co-worker and always got the assurance and encouragement I needed. Alas, we no longer work for the same company, but this same person still comes to mind when I need to summon the courage to give another speech or presentation.

I drove to work that morning, and the traffic put me in my usual bad mood. I went straight to my desk at work without saying a word to anyone. When the time came, I left to give my presentation. Again, I was shaky and nervous while driving. It didn’t help that gusts of wind were pushing at the car. When I arrived and was greeted, a couple people asked me how I was doing. “I’m trembling in my boots,” I told them honestly. They laughed as if I was joking. The time came, I was introduced, and I began speaking. The first two or three sentences had trouble getting out of my mouth in good order, but after that I was in control of the material, and the remaining fifty minutes flew.

Someone commented to me that day that introverts should not be required to speak in public. Both of us knew that this comment was a joke. Many introverts are quite comfortable in public speaking. Introverts make good teachers, preachers, and lecturers, so long as they are speaking on a subject they know and love. We might be more focused on our material because of our personality, and we are less likely than extraverts to be distracted by the people in front of us. When we are nervous, we have learned to use that energy to keep ourselves interesting as we speak.

The defining mark of an introvert, though, is that we expend energy dealing with other people. We gain energy when we are alone. Truthfully, the half dozen one-on-one conversations I had after my presentation were more draining than the fifty minutes spent speaking to the group, even though the conversations all consisted of positive and complimentary remarks. I’ve watched celebrities walk into a room, attract a crowd, interact enthusiastically with each person in that crowd, and bask in their admiration. I might be able to fake the same response, but from me it’s not genuine. I’d far rather stay home and write and send out my words to speak for me.

In public, introverts are actors. We have to be actors. We must appear calm and confident, even when we are trembling in our boots. I expect that some of the finest actors of stage and screen are secretly introverts, hiding their fears and channeling them into convincing performances. I know this is true of several famous comedians, including Johnny Carson and Robin Williams. Their charm and their energy in front of an audience was compensation for being afraid of other people.

Last week’s presentation was the first of a series of eight talks to the same group. I hope that I won’t be so nervous this week, but I offer no guarantees. More likely than not, I will once again be trembling in my boots. It’s no joke to me, but it will make the other people smile. J.

 

My own private Beatlefest

As an introvert, I have never wanted to attend the big fan festivals for those entertainment giants I like the most: the Beatles, the Chicago Cubs, and Doctor Who. I am content to enjoy this entertainment on my own, follow them on television or the internet, and even use the internet to share enthusiasm with other fans. Aside from attending an occasional game at Wrigley Field, I have no inclination of being physically surrounded by fans who share my interests.

Therefore, I decided this fall to hold my own private Beatlefest. To celebrate the Beatles, I am doing three things, or possibly four. I am reading the 350-page coffee table book Beatles Anthology. I am watching the eight-part video series that goes with that book. (Each installment is about seventy-five minutes.) I am setting my CD alarm to wake me up each morning with a different Beatles song. I may possibly find time to listen to entire albums from start to finish.

The only problem with my own private Beatlefest is that I am not able to keep the different media in sync. I am already half-way through the book, which I started a day or two after I finished reading the Encyclopedia Britannica. I’m all the way up to “Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.” I’ve been able to see three installments of the video series, which has me up to the tour between the filming of “Hard Days Night” and “Help!” My wake-up music is still coming from the soundtrack of “Hard Days Night.” Meanwhile, the only album I’ve had time to hear from start to finish is “Please Please Me,” (which was released in the United States, missing a couple of songs, as “The Early Beatles”).

Actually, a second difficulty was choosing thirty-five favorite songs for my alarm out of the many Beatles songs which I like. I had to try my best to stick to three songs an album, even though there are some albums which have many more than three good songs. I didn’t really want the Beatlefest to last much past the eighth of December, though, so I am limited in the number of songs I can choose.

For many years, November has been, for me, a month to remember the Beatles. When I was first learning about their music and beginning to buy their albums, a documentary about the Beatles was shown on TV, followed immediately by the movie “Hard Days Night.” This happened just before Thanksgiving, and I spent the entire long weekend listening to the Beatle albums I had already bought. Now, more Novembers than not, the Beatles come to mind. Sometimes my festival runs from November 29 to December 8 to remember the deaths of George Harrison and John Lennon, respectively. This year I started earlier, mostly because I wanted plenty of time to read the big book.

The Beatles managed to combine excellent music with entertaining personalities. I cannot agree with every decision they made for their personal lives, but I have learned to enjoy their music, their movies, and the documentaries about them without being distracted by their drug use, their casual attitude towards sex and towards marriage, and their dabbling in a form of the Hindu religion. John Lennon’s famous remark that the Beatles were “bigger than Christ” was meant (according to John), not as a boast or a put-down of Christ, but as a complaint that the Church was not doing enough to promote Christ and his teachings. John Lennon thought Christianity was going to disappear from the world; in that, he was misinformed. While Christ will remain God’s Son and the world’s Lord and Savior, the Beatles will remain an entertaining foursome from Liverpool, England, who have helped to shape the musical taste of several generations of music lovers.

In the past, I’ve been known to sink so deeply into a private Beatlefest that I actually pick up a Liverpudlian accent. I doubt that is going to happen this year. As long as I enjoy the music, though, the time spent on my own private Beatlefest will be worth the experience. J.

Alphabet soup

I usually distrust personality surveys. Dividing all the people in the world into just a few categories seems no more meaningful to me than relying on horoscopes. Admittedly, if one were to matrix the Chinese horoscope of twelve years with the Babylonian horoscope of twelve months, and then throw in the traditional poem about Monday’s child and Tuesday’s child, one would have more than a thousand categories—would you rather be a Taurus dragon who is fair of face or a Gemini rat who has far to go?

The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator strikes me as relatively accurate and useful, though, and not just because I like the nickname for my personality type. According to Myers-Briggs, my personality type is INT-J, also known as the Mastermind. This personality type seems to be relatively rare, with different sources measuring this type as belonging to anywhere from one to five percent of the population.

DISCLAIMER: I have done a small amount of internet research on this topic. I have a little training in psychology and in counseling, but I am by no means an expert in either field. The following observations are more about me than they are about the Myers-Briggs Type indicator.

The first letter, I, stands for introvert as opposed to extravert. Being an introvert is not the same as being shy, although the two can go together. An introvert is refreshed and empowered by being alone; an extravert is refreshed and empowered by being with other people. Introverts like me can teach a class or deliver a lecture, but afterwards we are tired and would rather be alone. Extraverts would follow a tiring day at work by going to a party somewhere, but introverts like me would prefer to stay at home with a good book. I am not going to belabor the point: many bloggers have written excellent posts about introverts. You may read two of them here and here.

The second letter, N, stands for intuition as opposed to sensing. This distinction is related to how people with different personalities prefer to gather information. Those who lean more toward intuition tend to use past experiences and knowledge already attained to process new information and experiences; those who lean toward sensing tend to be “in the moment,” trusting their senses, and less interested in the big picture. I would guess that Plato preferred intuition and Aristotle preferred sensing. My place in this distinction is not as easy for me to see as is the introvert rather than extravert distinction. On the other hand, when I teach history, I want my students to grasp the larger picture rather than focusing on the details. I do not want them to memorize things they can look up for themselves; I want to give them a reason to look up the details and an ability to understand those details when they research them.

The third letter, T, stands for thinking as opposed to feeling when making decisions. Of course, since I am Spock, I have no trouble accepting this description of myself. For as long as I can remember, I have believed that virtue is doing the right thing in spite of feelings—for example, courage is not the lack of fear, but rather the ability to do what is necessary in spite of fear. No one who wants to convince me of something by telling me about their feelings will have any luck changing my mind. Give me evidence, logic, and a reasonable argument, and I might change my mind.

The final letter, J, stands for judging as opposed to perceiving. This means that—already being labeled as intuitive rather than sensing and thinking rather than feeling—I now know that I will more likely use thinking rather than intuition to make a decision. Perhaps that is why I could see the introvert and the thinking more quickly than I could see the intuitive part of my personality.

I like the fact that this is a personality type, not a syndrome or a disorder. Moreover, I believe that all four descriptions could be viewed as a spectrum rather than a clear one-or-the-other choice. To be an introverted Platonic Spock does not seem like such a bad thing, though. It may not change much, but at least I now have some short-hand language to describe myself. And now you know more about me.

J.