It seems that the Lenten season for me has been an altogether odd time. I’ve withdrawn somewhat from church activities and found it increasingly hard to get input and help from the 20s/30s group I’m supposed to be moderating. Also, the continuation of cold, bad weather have made me less eager to go outside, despite the lengthening of the days. Perhaps I’m on my own little time apart in the wilderness, but it seems that Lent should be a season of getting closer to God, and I feel I’ve failed that in isolation as well.

But there are still touches of grace and contemplation. At a recent classical concert I attended, I realized how much beauty there has been in the name of religion. Looking at the Western world, I see music, painting, and architecture all developed for the glory of religion. I think about Eastern thought, developed alongside religious practice. I think about the way politics and religion have mixed, both for the betterment (Mother Theresa) and the detriment (the Crusades) of mankind. True, these things probably could have happened even without religion, but it’s uplifting to think something I like spurred those good parts. At that same concert, I found out that Mike didn’t know the meaning of the word ‘hosanna’, which I translated as meaning ‘praise’, or something similar. I was not all that sure about a concrete definition myself, so I decided to look it up, and it does mean praise or acclamation.

Also the concert reminded me about what I know and love about my home church.  I miss the Christmas Eve services with the sactuary lit only by the light of a thousand tiny small candles.  I love the symbolism of taking those tiny lights back with us into our lives – I never want to blow mine out.  Next week I will once again miss our congregation ending the service by singing the Hallelujah Chorus.  The thought of all those voices lifted in song, a powerful wave of sound and togetherness, moves me.  While it’s true that some of us sing better than others, the general cacophony does serve to blur out the flaws any individual voices might have.  Mostly we’re on-pitch anyway – I’ve heard the musical rending that is Chinese church, and I’m not afraid to renew my amazement at our combined voices in the face of that.  Despite our individual shortcomings, for moments like that chorus on Easter Sunday we are all of us beautiful.

But in the end I’m left with nagging worry. Are these little moments enough? Is my life singing to God or with God, or am I just going through the motions? A part of that is guilt I feel from shirking responsibilities that are becoming onerous, but a part of it runs deeper as well. I never want to be the type of Christian who goes to church, gives some money, and thinks that’s enough. I want to learn. I grow. I want to never stop questioning my life and really dig into what it means. I want to feel filled up in faith, and a part of that means continually losing and then reaffirming my relationship with God. Without some of that slipping, there’s no contrast to tell me where I stand. Still, the times in my life like this one when I’m not exactly where I want to be still leave me feeling shaky and unstable in myself.

Why my boss will never win ‘Best Boss’.

There are a number of competitions out there that recognize strong leadership in the workplace. I know – I spent a few seconds scrolling through them on Google. The most famous one, the ‘best boss/worst boss’ contest, stresses how your boss is a great motivator, communicator, and leader, and how they make the office more productive and satisfying.  That’s great, as far as it goes.  But it doesn’t go very far.

I did have one interesting related post I hit upon here, having to do with creativity.   The writer in question has done this activity with  variety of types and classes of employees, which I think is something important.  1) In the workplace, people regularly separate and group themselves.  2) Inter-group association, knowledge, and cooperation is not encouraged.

Take my office, for example.  There are two lunch groups – the admin assistants, and the other office workers.  It’s not because anyone looks down on us admins – many just feel more comfortable with their own group, where they can talk casually about daily tasks.   The same thing is true across the office – individuals in one department, such as real estate, don’t know about the daily or even major actions of those in private equity.  How do we create a sense of office unity despite this?  Better yet, how do we enliven progress recognition and achievement if we don’t know what anyone outside of our own small group is doing?

My own current boss is trying to make things more overlapping and to have different groups dabble in each-othe’s work.  Of course this is great as an ideal, though we haven’t worked out what the overlap is going to look like, or who will be responsible for what.  But most importantly for a growing organization, it moves people to start to be aware of the total work environment, hopefully breaking down some of those barriers between work groups.  It will not make him a more productive or a better leader over the short term especially.  Just because of his position people are sometimes afraid to approach him, and striking up major office innovations is not going to change that.  But over the long term, I think it will do something real and good for us as a company.