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The Double-Edged Sword

big-bang-5   THE DOUBLE-EDGED SWORD

   I’d say “once upon a time,” but it was back before there was time, before the genesis of barren rocks called planets spinning along invisible courses, before flaming stars wheeling across the dark annals of space—before even there was space—but after the Fall. This Fall, of course, was the downfall of the angels, led by one proud and upwardly-ambulant Lucifer, but that’s not the matter here. The matter is the establishment of the Laws—and one in particular—decreed somewhere between that Fall and the founding of Creation.

   To be fair, and to acknowledge those who think they were there when all of this mayhem happened, there may have been a universe before the Fall—one utterly and irreversibly ruined by the ambitious rebellion of that Lucifer and his underlings. In fact, according to annals of history and lore and just plain gossip, our current creation may simply be the miserable leftovers of that ruthless war. I don’t know. I wasn’t there. But regardless of when our current world was begotten—before or after that infamous Fall—God, in His divine and perpetual wisdom, decreed Laws upon which His creation was to be eternally established.

   Of that I am certain.

   We humans, divinely inspired and intellectually gifted as we believe ourselves to be, are aware of most of these laws. They encompass mathematics and physics and astrophysics and life sciences, as well as philosophies worldwide—laws regarding behaving and all of that, although, admittedly, we have yet to agree as to which among those creeds is the Absolute. Nevertheless, we do tend toward trouble with the spiritual laws established long before the Fall and before, perhaps, even the creation of the angels themselves. We struggle, in particular, with the idea of words.  

   Words, as we humans know them to be, are means of communication—whether for good or for evil—and that is the end of it. Words, as far as we are concerned, hold no further purpose. However, the scientists among us have discovered that words are comprised of things called “sound waves”. Now, these sound waves are formidable, echoing endlessly throughout the universe, ringing across galaxies, through the very matter which comprises them and, more probably then potentially, are eternal in nature. In fact, rumor has it that these sound waves—the very ones which comprise words—have never had any recorded ending. Our very own godlike technology has never trekked the end of a sound wave. These waves hurl toward earth from who knows where, are recorded by our scopes, and then streak on by, uncontained, into eternity. We have only some vague idea of where they came from and even less idea where they go. In addition, scientists have conceded that, while able to be recorded, sound waves are otherwise invisible.

   And that’s all we know about them.

   Nevertheless, these sound waves are the building blocks upon which God chose to establish His laws. Astonishingly, according to Biblical account, words were the sole instruments of creation.

The words “Light be!” triggered a blinding eruption of radiant color—yellow, orange, red, violet, blue and then white—the spectrum exploding throughout the frozen darkness, exposing the nothingness that was, and glittering with fire and heat and light.

   And that was how it all began.  

   Now there might be nothing more incredulous than the concept that matter has its genesis in sound waves and that God has used those very waves to speak creation into existence. One would think. But there is one thing more inexplicable even than that: that God would even conceive of bestowing upon mankind that same dominion over sound waves and thus give him the power to create through words.

   Imagine what mankind could do were he ever to grasp that truth—even a little. Destinies would be fulfilled, worlds would be conquered, and death in all of its manifold forms would be decimated—in this lifetime.

   Sound waves are powerful—words wielded for good or for evil, for prosperity or for poverty, for blessing or for cursing—our choices, of course. But who among us really understands the power that we wield?

   The spoken word is ours to command—but a double-edged Sword, to be sure.

   Use it well.

  

 

 

Communication: The Lost Art. And Maybe the Lost Job.

InterviewingRecently, I was talking with someone who does a lot of hiring at Duke University hospital in Raleigh, North Carolina. We ended up getting into a conversation about the skills that many of today’s job seekers have – or don’t have – which is the sad point. We noticed that many necessary communication skills seem to be sorely lacking in some in the millennial generation. Granted, millennials are fabulous techies but that expertise seems to have led to a deficit in interpersonal communication skills. This lack is, from her perspective, a deal-breaker in terms of getting a job. And, may I add, an absence of interpersonal communication skills is a problem in any situation which requires dealing with people – which, when lacking, could be a dream-breaker in general.       

     Here are some of her tips.

     Number 1:  When you’re talking with people, look at them. This seemed, as we talked, to be her number one complaint. And while this skill should be self-evident, it’s apparently not. She reports that when interviewing, many people – especially young folks – simply don’t know how to look her in the eye. We’re guessing that that’s because much of the interaction millennials have is with their own peers and the majority of those interactions are electronic; therefore, they simply have not had much practice interfacing directly with others so they feel uncomfortable when someone else is looking (or attempting to look) them in the eye.

     I’ve noticed a couple of things with millennials as well. First of all, I’ve often marveled at how, when they’re with one friend, they’re texting or messaging another. And guess what? When they’re with that friend, they’re messaging the first one. Or I’ll see them chatting with each other while they’re playing video games or texting and neither is, of course, looking at the other. Sometimes I hear them chatting with someone in who knows what state or nation while playing a video game, meaning they haven’t ever seen the other’s face. And many times in the classroom when I’m speaking directly to a student, I’ll have to stop and ask him (or her) to look at me so I know I have his attention.

     Which is the point: when you’re talking with someone and they’re looking down or anywhere but at you, the message is that they’re not paying attention. And that can be inferred to mean that what you’re saying is not that important.

     Is that the message you want to send to a prospective employer? Or to anyone else?

     Number 2:  When you’re talking with someone, slow down and speak up.  Evidently, mumbling is an issue. Granted, it can be unnerving to have to talk with someone you don’t know, but as I tell students when they’re public speaking, if people can’t hear you, then their focus is off your message and on you. And that’s bad. The same thing applies to the speed of your speech; the faster you talk, the more nervous you’ll appear. People who speak slowly are perceived as more confident plus, it’s easier for a listener to process what they’re saying. So, again, if you’re speaking too quickly, people are off message and on you. As I tell students, we don’t pay any attention to the radio unless it’s not working and it’s the same with a speaker.

     The irony is that people get nervous speaking with or to folks they don’t know because they’re afraid of looking foolish and yet it’s that nervousness that causes them to do (or not do) the things that do make them look foolish.

     Which leads me to the next point . . .

     Number 3: Prepare. And then practice. You know what situation you’re going into, whether it’s a job interview, a meeting with a client, or simply a social meeting with a new person. It’s not like you’re going to be beamed over somewhere with no notice and you’re standing there in your underwear. So practice what you’re going to say.    

     Sometimes when a friend is going to a job interview, I’ll offer to let them rehearse the worst case scenario – a really mean interviewer. I’ll ask them hard questions and do my best to put them on the spot. I’ll say things like, “What’s your greatest weakness – and don’t tell me it’s that you work too hard!” (Don’t ever say that!!) Research interview questions, Google the best and worst answers, and get someone to practice with.

     Number 4: Pay attention to what you look like. Now you might be thinking that a job interview is not a beauty contest – and you’d be correct. However, it is a contest of how professional you are, whether you know how to dress for a work environment and, believe it or not, whether you’re a clean, neat person. My Duke friend entertained me with stories about how some people dress coming to job interviews – and some are not pretty. For example, one woman came dressed in scrubs. Now granted, she was looking for a job in the medical profession, but one doesn’t dress down for an interview; one dresses up. That means, as a general rule, always dress one step higher than the job requires. For instance, if you’re meeting the manager at a fast-food restaurant where you’ll be wearing a company uniform, nice slacks and a shirt or blouse are all that’s necessary. (And decent shoes – don’t wear sneakers!) If you’re applying for a professional job, a sales job, or an “out front” position like a receptionist, dress up. A suit for men and a suit or nice dress for women. And ladies, be modest: watch how short the skirt is or how low-cut the dress. (Sadly that has to be pointed out . . .)

     Number 5: And for crying out loud, smile!!  It’s not that difficult. Enough said?

     If you’re a person for whom any or all of these things do not come naturally, prepare!  Your competition will.

     Now – don’t be nervous. You got this!

“The Wait” or the Counterfeit? Your Call.

Hold Button GoldSeveral years ago, I needed a teaching job. I had switched careers and already had kids, meaning I needed a full-time job, not part-time, and I needed permanent, not temporary. So – I searched and searched, but without experience, it was slow going.

     Nevertheless, one day I got a call from a principal to interview for a high school  English position. I was, of course, all in and set up the interview but then, as we were ending the phone conversation, he said, “By the way, the position is full-time but it’s a temporary maternity leave for the fall semester. Are you still interested?”

     What was I supposed to say? No?  “Of course. Thank you.”

     Well, I have to tell you that for the next two days, the left side of my brain and the right side of my brain did nothing but fight.

     RIGHT SIDE: “Of course we have to try for the job. We have two children to feed!”

     LEFT SIDE: “But we need a full-time, permanent job and this isn’t it.”

     RIGHT: “Yes, but we’re running out of time! They only hire for teachers once a year. They won’t be hiring again till next year!”

     LEFT: “Right, but if we took this job, we’d have to start this whole job-hunting thing all over again in January. And there’s never anything then.”

     RIGHT: “I know but in the meantime, it’s a paycheck.”

     LEFT: “True, but we could miss the job we’re really supposed to have.”

     It was at this point that I finally stepped in and shut them up. But, I had to admit, Lefty had a point: I could miss the job I was supposed to have. I’d been praying for a full-time, permanent job and this job wasn’t that. Where was my faith? Was I going to trust God or was I going to “settle”?

     I picked up the phone, called the principal and thanked him for the interview opportunity but explained that since I really needed a permanent job, I didn’t want to take up his time interviewing for a job I knew I couldn’t take. He thanked me for calling – and that, as they say, was that.

     I was nervous. All I could hear was Righty saying, “That was dumb.”

     Until the phone rang again. I was offered an interview for a full-time, permanent job which, I’m happy to report, I got and have had for sixteen years.

     Truth: if it’s an important decision in your life, the enemy will often fix you up with a counterfeit thing before God offers you the real thing.

     A “counterfeit” is, by definition, a fake or phony something or other intended to deceive and/or derail. In this case, it was a counterfeit job. Think about it: not only would I have had to begin the whole long, arduous job-hunting process all over again in January, but the job God had intended for me would have been taken by someone else. 

     Fast forward to 2012: I wanted a pre-owned Camry Hybrid with no rust and at an affordable price. I know – tall order. And I learned one thing: there aren’t too many Camry Hybrids out there – rust or no rust.

     So I shopped around, found one and it looked good (even though it was gray) so I got set to make an offer. But before I did, I took it to my mechanic to get it checked out. (Can’t buy a car not checked out.) Turns out there was some rust on the undercarriage. It wasn’t much but there weren’t any other Camry Hybrids around so I had a decision to make: take this car or take a chance and keep looking? (Did I mention that I had promised my son who needed a car for college that he could have mine when I got my new one? All I heard for three months was, “When are you going to get a new car??)

     And then I remembered the job and so I prayed, “Lord, I’ve been believing you for a car with no rust, I know that’s not too hard for You, and so that’s what I’m going to wait for.” (Son wasn’t happy about that.)

     Long story short, shortly afterward, I bought a beautiful, rust-free, red Camry Hybrid from a dealer in Pennsylvania (where they don’t use road salt). And I picked it up one week before son left for college.

     Lesson? The enemy will often offer the counterfeit thing before God reveals the real thing. Why doesn’t God come through sooner? I asked Him once while in the middle of “The Wait,” and He assured me that things were “in the works” but that the other people involved weren’t yet ready. In the job situation, I found out later that the opening didn’t happen until nearly August when another teacher waited longer than usual to announce her retirement. I got the job right before school started. Listen – the Lord will often test our faith and allow the waiting to go right up until the last minute. But, as they say, “He’s rarely early, but He’s never late.”

     So – if you’re sick of waiting to see your dream realized, your vision fulfilled, your destiny unfold, understand that God has the perfect thing (or person); he/she/it simply may not have their circumstances aligned yet.

     In the meantime, remember Abraham who got tired of waiting and took matters into his own hands. Now we have war in the Middle East.

     Do not fall for the counterfeit. Your destiny is well worth “The Wait.”

What are you waiting for? Let me know here.

Get the Job Interview – Guaranteed!

Flower BasketIn the war for a job in competition with dozens of other people, how do you even get an interview – which is the key to “selling” yourself?  The answer?  You have to set yourself apart and stand out big from the rest of the job-hunting pack.

Recently we discussed how crucial it is to have an impeccable resume but the truth is, an impressive resume itself won’t guarantee you an interview; it just reduces your chances of being immediately eliminated. But don’t despair because there is a way to get yourself and your name, not only noticed, but remembered.

Back in the day when I worked in advertising developing campaigns and doing promotions, copywriting, etc., we all understood one thing: “Presentation is everything.” Anyone will buy anything as long as that thing is presented the right way. For example, say someone gives you a beautiful piece of jewelry and they present it in a plain white box and simply hand it to you. Okay – that’s nice. But what if they placed that same piece of jewelry into an elegant velvet jewelry box and wrapped that jewelry box in satiny white paper and tied it all up with a gold satin bow? Better, right? Same piece of jewelry but different message. The message the fancy packaging conveys is, “I cared enough to invest time in making this special because I care about you.” That’s what employers are looking for: someone who cares enough to strive for excellence. And your packaging will communicate that.

Choc-Basket-2Not too long ago, Hallmark hit on a winning ad campaign to sell their very expensive cards. Remember the tag, “When you care enough to send the very best”? They’ve been using that slogan for years because it works. In the same way, you can use the “usual” packaging for your resume – maybe a nice envelope that matches your resume paper or – you can stand out, show you car.

Some years ago, I wanted a job as assistant promotions’ director for our local ABC affiliate television station. So I did the resume thing with my signature paper, an elegant, pale gold parchment, but I wanted something more, something that showed the creativity I knew they were looking for in this position. And I knew that if I waited to get the interview to tell them how creative I am, I might never get the chance. As we writers always say, “Show, don’t tell.” So I found a big white box and filled it with fun things like nice chocolates (separately wrapped pieces, btw) and a few other things, including my resume and cover letter. But I also included a couple of helium-filled balloons (thus the bigger box) and lots of shiny confetti so that when the director opened the box, the balloons would pop out. I got the interview but I also got a vivid description of how long it took the director to get the confetti out of her rug. (Lesson: maybe don’t use confetti.) 

An additional plus for you when sending a presentation package is the benefit of walking into the interview with confidence.

There are lots of ways to make a creative presentation and granted, it’s going to be different for various industries. For jobs that are more conservative than creative, I would stick with a nice flower arrangement or a coffee/tea basket (always include both beverages). Featured prominently, of course, in the midst of any of it, would be your resume and cover letter. Protect those, if necessary, by putting them into a plastic cover or an appropriately-sized cardboard or metal tube (check any craft store).

A while back, I applied for a radio job for which I’d need both a resume and audition tapes and, as always, I suspected the competition might be stiff. So, in order to at least get my foot in the door, I sent a coffee/tea basket with some goodies and my application items. I got that interview as well, along with some comments about how much everyone enjoyed the goodies. Even the receptionist who answered my call recognized my name from the basket and thanked me for sending it. In the end, I didn’t get that job – I wasn’t the best qualified – but at least I got the opportunity to pitch my game. And I met some very nice people.

An additional plus for you when sending a presentation package (besides getting the interview) is the benefit of walking into the interview with confidence. You’ve already set yourself apart from other applicants in the employer’s eyes so you already have an advantage. And you’ll all know it.

Creative ideas are limitless and don’t have to cost a lot of money. If not a present box, a basket or a flower arrangement, consider sending a nice box of chocolates or one of those fresh fruit arrangements that looks like a flower arrangement. (They’ll remember that.) Whatever you do, keep it tasteful and make sure that what it conveys is your ability and desire to go that extra mile to get things done; make certain it shows that you care. 

Oh, and post-script – do not forget the “thank you” note after the interview. It doesn’t have to be mushy – just a “thanks for the opportunity; I enjoyed meeting you” message.  However, if you’re one of those people whose motto is: “I don’t do thank you notes,” it’s your call.  Just remember that the ones who do write them will be the ones who get remembered.

I’ll end with this word of encouragement: I have never used a presentation package and not gotten an interview. After all, if you were the employer, wouldn’t you, at the very least, want to check out the person who just sent you a big box of chocolates? 

You know you would.

 

 

So DONE!

Man in DespairHave you ever been so desperate to hear from God or to have Him move on your behalf that, having tried everything else, you finally just pitch a fit.

Have you ever been angry at God?

Maybe you feel you’ve been tried beyond your limits: a person in your life who – for days, months, years – has tested your patience and love beyond bearing? A job which – while you’re grateful to have one – you dread going to each and every day? Or you need a job, any job? Perhaps you’ve been waiting a long time for the desire of your heart – a husband or wife? A dream you believe you’ve been called to? A child?

Maybe you’ve been praying for the salvation of a loved one for half a lifetime – and they seem to be getting further away from the Lord, not closer. Perhaps you’re desperate to be healed or to see a loved one healed – and pain is all you know in the meantime. Maybe you’re enduring a heartbreaking marriage – and despite all of your pleading and prayers, the dream just isn’t happening.

Maybe you have financial problems: bills you can’t pay or college or retirement you can’t afford? Or just when you begin to get on your feet, something else breaks down, wears out, needs repairs or someone gets sick? What if your heart’s been broken just one too many times and you just can’t bear one more minute of pain?

What then?

What if, in the midst of any or all of those trials, heartaches, persecutions, and crisises, you’ve said every prayer you can think of or you’ve put on the game face and willed yourself to worship one more time or you’ve fasted till you’re skin and bones or you’ve declared every promise in the Bible? What if you’ve tithed every penny you’ve ever earned and forgiven till you’re blue in the face and haven’t missed church in seven years? What if you’ve read the Bible through three times in a year, pray two hours a day (on your knees), and clean toilets every week at church.

What if all of that – and you still just can’t seem to get God’s attention.


     Have you ever been there?  So worn out from waiting, crying, pleading, dealing, declaring, and waiting some more that you finally decide God needs a little drama?


Sometimes, in the midst of desperate circumstances over a long period of time, when everything we know to do has failed to move God’s hand – we take circumstances into our own hands. Continue reading So DONE!