The Question Matters


Why I’m OK with Questioning God

 

The title card for the musical comedy series G...

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I’m a Gleek.  I’m sappy enough to enjoy the poignant moments.  I’ve been around high school students enough to appreciate the roller coaster ride with its high highs and low lows.  Musically, I dig harmony and Glee has great harmonies and music.

And this show doesn’t mess around.  It has tackled homosexuality, blended families, discrimination against women and minorities, and the sports vs. arts debate in schools, just to name a few.  This week’s episode was, for me, the high point of Glee’s audacity.  They tackled prayer in school.  And forgive my mixed sports metaphors, but they hit a home run.  They didn’t just have a friendly conversation in the principal’s office about it.  In a 60 minute show, I found one question coming up over and over again in the show: Who are we to weaponize our beliefs? By “we,” I mean humanity in general and certainly Americans.  When have we done this, you ask?  Tuesday night’s show provided many pointed observations.

Mercedes and several other friends prayed with Kurt‘s dad against Kurt’s wishes.  They weaponized their faith in prayer.  Yet Kurt was similarly guilty when he refused to accept those prayers as genuine concern for him and his father.  He weaponized his belief that there is no God.

Kurt summed up his disgust with God and those who believe in Him–that many Christians believe he (Kurt) made a choice and should be punished for that choice.  He sees that he was made that way and that others are punishing him for being who he is.  We–I– have weaponized our beliefs about homosexuality.

Kurt was a victim again in this show–when Sue Sylvester attempted to use his disgust towards his friends in Glee to prosecute Will Schuster for allowing his students to sing about their faith.  She weaponized her faith in the government to regulate religious practice.

And then there was Finn and Grilled Cheezus.  When Finn saw an image of Jesus in a grilled cheese sandwich he made, he took that sign to mean that he had a direct connection to God to ask whatever he wanted.  He weaponized his spiritual awakening for his own benefit, praying for the chance to take the next step sexually with Rachel and to win the quarterback’s job over the new kid in school.

In the end, Kurt was touched by his church experience with Mercedes, yet still skeptical at best.  Finn was confused, hurt, and doubting God more now than ever before.  Kurt’s dad showed the faintest sign of recovery from his heart attack.  How did it happen?  Was prayer involved?  Was it his deeply powerful connection with his son?

In the spirit of the best writing, the writers of this show declined to answer, leaving that for their viewers to decide.  The writers of the show openly questioned God and our beliefs about him, however devoted or skeptical we may be.  Yes, I’m OK with questioning God, especially if it comes at the expense of our easy answers, answers that we too often weaponize against those who see the world through different lenses.

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Trey Finley, Gleek Extraordinaire

I’m hooked. I’m a Gleek.

“Glee” performs the music of my generation.  For some in Generation X, it’s the music of their high school and college years.  For me, it’s the music of my elementary and junior high years.  Either way, it’s a blast from the past.

The cast of Glee is good.  Really good.  I get chills when I hear Rachel Berry and her mom (played by Idina Menzel, who was part of the original cast of Wicked) sing together.  It blows me away that Cory Monteith–the actor who plays lead singer Finn Hudson–is singing for just about the first time in his life.  Sue Sylvester, the coach of the cheerleader team, has to be the funniest character on TV.  I’d tune in just to watch her banter with Mr. Shuester.

Lest you think the show is pure cheese, there’s a character who’s gay and struggling to relate to his father.  There’s the teacher with a Downs’ Syndrome sister who spends her free time caring for her.  There’s a paraplegic who performs on stage with the other students, but dreams to be free of the wheelchair.  There’s a character who gets pregnant and a character who says “no” when pressured to have sex.  And there’s the glee club diva turned cheerleader (then back to glee club diva) who struggles with her self-image, especially her weight.

Glee, like Generation X, dares you to accuse it of being shallow.  In a recent review of the show by the Los Angeles Times, their TV critic had this to say:

“Glee” is, in many ways, a very modern show, addressing topics usually reserved for serious drama — teen pregnancy, a father coming to terms with his gay son — in what is essentially a musical comedy that more than occasionally borders on camp. Over and over again, the message is: Don’t judge.

Listening for What You Didn’t Hear

Posted in Coaching,Family,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on June 14, 2010
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When I get up in the morning, there are certain sounds I’ve become accustomed to hearing.  I usually hear my basset hound beginning to stir.  She yawns as she stretches, shakes, and then meanders slowly to another part of the room to lay down, her collar jingling all the way.  I hear the fans.  Their whooooosh as they circulate cool air is like a soundtrack to our lives.  A few of them need balancing, and as such I occasionally hear the cords that change fan speeds and turn the lights off and on let out a soft click as they lightly knock heads.  And of course, I hear the tap tap tap as I type away at my keyboard.

That is not a long list.  There are not many sounds to be heard at 6:30 in the morning at our house, one of the reasons I enjoy writing at this time of day.  Hearing noise, though, does not mean that I’m listening.

Listening notices more details. If I listen to the fan, I may notice that it is running at a different speed that usual, thus softening the whooosh sound it makes.  If I listen to my basset hound, I might also hear her groan a bit more than usual in her yawn, letting me know she needs the supplement we give her that keeps her long back and short legs limber.

Listening requires a recognition of what I’m not hearing. What isn’t making noise today that often is?  For a change, my 5-year-old is still asleep.  Often, I can hear him playing in his room when I wake up to write.

Listening is hearing what others are not. Listening is more than hearing sound and words.  Listening identifies, marks, and contemplates the rhythm at which someone speaks. It evokes thoughtful comparison of the pace and tone in someone’s voice.  It provides clues to how that person sees the world.

Listening calls for action. Listening is not passive.  For the coach, careful listening provides the basis from which powerful questions emerge.  For the parent, listening provides solid ground from which to guide a child.  It serves notice of good habits and bad, words that build up and those that tear down, social patterns that are serving them well and those that aren’t.

In short, Listening is to Hearing as Leading is to Managing.

Tales of a Fourth Grade Entrepreneur, Cont.

Posted in Entrepreneurs,Family by treyfinley1008 on May 20, 2010
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I wrote a while back about some of the barriers I’ve had to overcome as I’ve entered the entrepreneurial world.  There’s the childhood “trauma” of selling candy bars.  There’s the security of a paycheck.  There are the late nights/early mornings wondering what’s next.  Here’s another one.

When I was in fourth grade, I began piano lessons with a teacher in the town where we lived. It was my third year of piano lessons, and I had shown some signs of inheriting my mom’s talent on the ivories.  Getting better required hard work and lots of practice, which I could do.  It required alone time, which I enjoyed.  It definitely helped that I had large hands, allowing me to cover the keyboard with more ease than most kids my age.

I was particularly good at music theory–the scales, the rhythms, the chords, and the chord progressions that form the building blocks of great music.  I enjoyed precision then, just as I do now.  When I was learning a new piece of music, one of the hardest things to do was keep a steady beat.  My focus was on getting the notes right, learning where to put my fingers and how to play the chord with certain fingers, allowing me to be in better position to move to the next chord.  During those first attempts at a new piece of music, the beat was less important than learning the notes.  As the notes became more familiar, the rhythm became more important.

  The tool I used to help instill that sense of rhythm was a metronome. The metronome clicks out a very precise rhythmical sound, keeping the piano student on the beat. It would tell me when I was playing too slowly or too quickly.  As a young student, the mechanism is very helpful.   Over time, though, that metronome became hardwired into my musical brain.  I didn’t need it any more; I could hear the pace at which the music needed to move and maintain that pace throughout the piano piece, even if the piece was new to me.

Some days, I need an entrepreneur’s metronome. Entrepreneurship feels like a piano sonata in which I’m still learning the notes.  The rhythm often escapes me.  I need a hardwired metronome in my business brain that will help me keep the pace.  Business ebbs and flows, speeds up and slows down.  Even as the rhythms of entrepreneurship change, I need a steady tick-tock in my head that paces my work, speeding it up on days that motivation is hard and slowing it down on days that feel too full.

On Goals Gone Wild

Posted in Career,Entrepreneurs,Family by treyfinley1008 on May 18, 2010
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Coach David Clutterbuck: On Goals Gone Wild, and Building Better Coaching in Companies from the Bottom Up

A nice reminder about the systemic nature of goals.  Goals, especially those made within the context of a small business or corporate climate, ripple out.  They are neither made nor accomplished in a vacuum.  For that matter, even the solopreneur’s goals ripple out–perhaps on to his/her family.

Have you set goals for yourself, your family, your career, your business?  If so, who might those goals affect?

The Land of If Only

Posted in Change,Family,Generation X,Leadership,People Watching by treyfinley1008 on April 29, 2010
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A transparent and authentic post from a blog I read today.  Wise words for those of you out there hearing regret’s footsteps close behind…

http://junkdrawer67.wordpress.com/2010/04/28/stuck-in-the-land-of-if-only/

It’s Complicated

First, a disclaimer: I never ever saw It’s Complicated.  Probably won’t.  The trailers give the impression that the movie sensationalizes divorce, and I just can’t get excited about dropping $4 at the movie store to see it.  I’d rather rent Sherlock Holmes again.

Anyway, on to coaching. It’s Complicated is a response I’m beginning to hear more and more as I continue coaching.  (Maybe I could blog on phrases that should alert you when coaching is needed.  This is definitely one of them.)  Work is complicated. Life is complicated. My problem is complicated. As coaches, we’re taught to drill down almost immediately when we hear broad sweeping statements like this.  Questions such as, “If work were simple instead, what would be different” can begin chiseling away at the surface complications and get down to the deeper language that’s making life seem…complicated.

Let’s not belittle complexity, though.  It’s a complex world.  Your generation lives among four othersThe World is Flat, says Thomas Friedman.  He’s right.  Generation X knows complexity: empty homes after school, high divorce rates, workplace ceilings.  Gen Y knows complexity through social media, the 24-hour news cycle, and broad exposure to culture, ideas, and religion.  It is an increasingly complex world.

Simplistic answers from one person will not suffice in our complex world.  Complexity demands a sophisticated response.  Sophisticated responses require multiple voices.  Having multiple voices in the room makes trust a non-negotiable.  What are you doing to engender trust among colleagues?  Who must you learn to trust in order to wade through your complicated life?

Funny Gen X cartoon

Posted in Family,Fun,Generation X,Generation Y by treyfinley1008 on March 31, 2010
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The four generations in one very funny frame.  Thanks to the writer at http://twenty-x.blogspot.com/ for the picture.

Gen X Resurrection: From House to Home

Posted in Family,Generation X by treyfinley1008 on March 29, 2010
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I’m subscribed to a blog called junkdrawer67. I know nothing about the writer other than this: he is from Generation X and he lives in Michigan.  Thanks to a recent post, I also know that’s he in the midst of a divorce.  His post is about the divorce rate in America.   The short story–the divorce rate in America is dropping.  Don’t believe the 50/50 success rate.

If this article is to be believed, then Generation X is making a difference in the divorce rate in America:

More than 65 percent of first marriages reach their 10th anniversaries. That number has jumped to about 80 percent for recent marriages…Many long for the 1950s, when intact, happily married couples populated the popular imagination. In a way, that era has quietly returned. The average number of children exposed to divorce today has dropped to near the average experienced during that decade…for those marrying in the early 1990s, 78 percent were still married after 10 years compared with 73 percent of those marrying in the late 1970s.

Let’s not kid ourselves.  Marriage is a marathon, and what these stats tell us is that we’re less likely now to throw in the towel in the first few miles than we used to be.  It doesn’t mean stumbling and falling is inevitable, especially since these stats tell us nothing about the second decade of marriage and beyond.

If we want that resurrection to continue (and I think most everyone who came home to an empty house in their childhood does), we must continue finding ways to prioritize our families.  Here are some things our family of four is doing to breathe home life into our house.

LIVE FIRST, WORK SECOND.  My wife and I are big proponents of this.  We both work only four days a week.  Right now, that means there’s less income and more untapped business than we’d like.  It also means that our 22-month old only goes to daycare three days a week.  It means that I can pick up my four-year-old from school today and hang out for a while before dinner.

KNOW WHEN TO STOP WORKING.  Confession time–I’m really bad at putting away the iPhone.  It finds its way into my hands while the kids watch TV or play outside.  My wife and I are also pretty bad about working late into the night, a habit we both want to change.  We’re still getting better at this one; we’re a work in progress.

SCHEDULE TIME WITH THE FAMILY.  Set an appointment.  Kid time is kid time, spouse time is spouse time.  For my wife and I, American Idol is three hours of our weeknight evenings.  One night each week is Family Night.  One night each week is Boys Night Out.  Date Night for my wife and I stays on the calendar.  I’m not naive; our schedule will change in the coming years.  I also know that as those changes come, our investment now in family time will yield dividends well into our boys’ teen years.

Your house is different from mine, so your strategies will probably differ from ours.  What’s your strategy for living first, working second?

Check out Live First, Work Second.

A Generation X Resurrection

Posted in Family,Generation X,Leadership by treyfinley1008 on March 29, 2010
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Since I began my career in ministry as a youth ministry intern in 1996, I have been told all sorts of things about Generation X by my professors, my classmates, the authors of books I’ve read, and the parents of Gen X.  We’re disloyal, they say.  We’re postmodern (whatever that means).  We don’t believe in church.  We do things just to be different.  We don’t care about community.  We’re too individualistic.  We don’t this, we don’t that, we’re too this and not enough that.  Our first President has been metaphorically left for dead.  Our opportunities for career promotion are blocked.  There is a great deal of hand-wringing over what appears to some to be a lifeless generation.

This is a week when Christians celebrate life from lifelessness, first in the form of a Risen Lord, but also in that Jesus continues to bring life into lifelessness in all its forms.  In a similar way, I believe that Generation X has been given a life-giving breath.  This breath is unique to us, and it is ours to give or to keep for ourselves.  If we’re willing to share that breath of life, it will invigorate everything that surrounds us–our families, our work, our fun, our faith.  Over the next few days, check back for places where Gen X has life to breathe into lifelessness.

Monday–We must breathe home into the house.

Tuesday–We must breathe faith into religion.

Thursday–We must breathe trust into the workplace.

Saturday–We must breathe hope into hopelessness.

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