Thursday, March 24, 2011

Think About Spiritual Gifts

I grew up, as they say, "in the church," meaning that it (church) has always been a part of my life. Church services, Sunday School, Bible School, church camp, and youth group: these were all activities that were part of my routine growing up. Not only that, but they were activities that I was expected to be involved in. No, I wasn't forced; it was just what I was supposed to do. It was what most of my friends did, too. And most of the people I knew, in fact.

So, it came as a bit of a surprise (but, really, not a huge shock) to me--about four or five years ago--when I realized that I don't really know very much about the Bible. For having grown up "in the church," I'm pretty dumb about church things. After coming to this realization, I began reading and attending what--at my church--is called Gathering Space (adult Christian education). I still don't know a lot (because, face it, there is A LOT to learn), but I do know a lot more than I did five years ago.

A couple of weeks ago I took a Spiritual Gifts class at my church. This was a wonderful class that has inspired me to learn more about Spiritual Gifts. Those of you who know me are well aware that when I find a subject I want to learn more about, I immediately invest a lot of time and energy (and, sometimes, money--depending on whether or not the books are available from the library) in reading whatever I can on the particular subject. My current quest, though, is not so much about the Spiritual Gifts themselves, but it is about figuring out how I can use mine.

In the class, we took an assessment to figure out what our strongest gifts are. My Spiritual Gifts weren't what I was expecting them to be...until I thought about it (and I'm still thinking about it); then, it made sense. My strongest gifts were assessed to be Faith, Mercy, and Discernment. (This doesn't mean these are my only gifts; it just means that they are, most likely, my strongest ones.)

(Not surprising to me was that my weakest gift was Evangelism. I was also relieved to know that this was okay (phew...) because we all have different gifts; God gave us each different gifts. It is necessary that we all have different gifts.)
"There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone. To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit." I Corinthians 12: 4-7.

We are to use our gifts with love: this is easy for me to understand. But, finding ways to use them is a little trickier for me. I think I use several of my gifts (including ones that I didn't rate as high on) when I tutor my adult student in reading and writing. Perhaps that explains why the two sessions per week of tutoring are often the high points of those days for me. It's when I'm tutoring that I know I'm doing something useful, something I'm excited about, and, better yet,...I'm doing something with joy and love, something I know I was meant to do.

(Now, I just have to work on doing something like that (making a difference, doing something useful and important, using my gifts) more than just two hours a week...!)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Think About Professional Communication

There's a book called I Judge You When You Use Poor Grammar. I haven't read it, but it's one of those books with fun English language gaffes and flubs. I've read several of these kinds of books and enjoy them. However, I can find enough of these kinds of errors without buying a book or even looking too hard.

Let me back up a second though and assure you that I personally don't judge people based on their grammatical goofs--that's just the name of that book. It certainly does make me sad, though, when educated people make obvious errors; and I think it says something about our country's education system. Communication is one of the most important skills to have in today's world.

It's understandable when people write un-grammatically in a text message, in an informal email, on Facebook, etc., but too many times this informality carries over into the professional world (which seems to be gradually getting smaller and smaller). Proofreading what you write before hitting "send" is an important step to consider. Last week I received an email from a buyer at the corporate office of the company I work for. I was the only recipient and I knew she had been writing it in a hurry, so the error had minimal consequences. She wrote that she "defiantly need[ed] a second pair of eyes." It was apparent that she meant she definitely needed a second pair of eyes. (And, she obviously proved her point!) No harm done.

However, this same company regularly sends out "professional" communications to upwards of 1000 recipients at a time. Not only are these riddled with vague directions and poor organization, they also often contain sentences that are just plain painful to read. For instance: "We are giving store management the opportunity to review the list of patrons who our systems show should be sent to collections before they are sent." Or, "...the PSC will be putting together a patch that will that will update all store's flash plug-in." No, I didn't accidentally write that will twice; that's how it was published. And "all store's flash plug-in"? Ugh. That should be "all stores' flash plug-ins." In these cases, yes, I DO judge the company I work for. I don't judge the actual individual who wrote the sentences though. Not everybody is a grammar guru; not everybody has to be. We all excel at different things. But, for crying out loud, there should be somebody looking over these communications before they are sent out for 1000+ people to read.

Think about the image you want to project when you write something, whether it is personal or professional. Although someone might not be "judging" you, per se, for writing it, he or she just might end up using it as an example in a blog or a book of English errors.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Think About Images of Women

It's Women's History Month, but I'm sure you already knew that.

You may know it, but you probably aren't thinking much about it. I'm pretty indifferent to these "special" months myself (except for National Poetry Month). I mean, it's nice to take the time and focus on a group of people and their history, but women's history--just like African-American history--is part of history, period. The reason for these "special" months is that these histories tend to get skimmed over in primary school. In fact, most of what I learned about either subject (women's history, African-American history), I learned on my own. By reading--which I do a lot of.

If women were to know their history, they might understand that the fight for equality is not over. Yes, we've come a long way; but, as technology changes, so do the pressures on women. The younger generation--the kids who have grown up with internet--is most susceptible.

What somebody said to me last week has stuck with me. Not necessarily in a bad way, but not really in a good way either. More like in a befuddled way.... A woman--probably in her 40s, but I'm a bad judge of age--picked up a pink sweatshirt and said, "I'm going to get the pink one, of course, 'cause I'm a girl. I love pink!" I really don't care that she likes pink (each to his or her own), but the way that she said it--implying that she was going to get the pink one, of course, because she was a girl, got me seriously stirred up.

I doubt that the woman meant anything by it. But, when you take those same sort of slipshod comments and put them in the media or otherwise surround young people with them, you're influencing people. And, with such a prevalence of media, young women are surrounded more than ever before by this kind of persuasion.

I was fortunate to have grown up when I did and where I did and, luckily, I was raised in a family of people who, in some aspects, went against the grain. My mom's favorite color was always navy blue (I think she's branched out into greens now); I don't recall her ever wearing pink (or ever trying to persuade me to wear it). Additionally, my television exposure was limited and I was encouraged to read--and allowed to pick out my own books from the library. (Interestingly, I loved the chapter books with Sebastian the dog sleuth [this was in the early '80s]--those of you who know me personally know that I love dogs and that I'm a true crime buff. Some things never change. Go ahead, ask me some serial killer trivia....) 

And, being the youngest of four, I had all sorts of toys to play with, and my siblings gave me a diverse education. My oldest brother taught me some basic (literally, BASIC) computer programming when I was eight or nine. My other brother taught me how to shoot a basketball, how to play ping-pong, and how to build with Legos. My sister taught me how to draw. On top of that, life was very different in the '80s. We didn't have internet; and, until the mid/late '80s, my family didn't even have cable or a VCR. We weren't bombarded with marketing images 24/7. We listened to the radio, and my friends and I made mix tapes of the music we liked. Life was, well, simpler.

I recently heard someone say that girls naturally go through a "princess" phase. I didn't. Most other girls I knew didn't. Maybe twenty-first century girls do, but that's because there are people out there creating the "phases" a child will go through. And, because people are surrounded virtually non-stop by these images, the problem is WORSE than it was ten, 15, or 20 years ago. That's right, we're going backwards.

I read a fascinating book a few years ago called Packaging Girlhood: Rescuing Our Daughters from Marketers' Schemes by Sharon Lamb and Lyn Mikel Brown (Brown is a co-founder of Hardy Girls Healthy Women). It made me angry--at marketers, partly, but they're just doing their job, and what they're I was also angry at the women who let themselves be objectified and at the parents who fall for it and at the girls who don't resist it. Yet, I know my anger is misplaced. As with most things, education is key.

Check out this short trailer for Killing Us Softly 4. Jean Kilbourne is the phenomenal woman behind the film (and many others). She has worked hard to educate everyone (not just women) about the power of media and, specifically, how it affects how society views women and how women view themselves.

After you view the trailer for Killing Us Softly 4, check out this video (from Peggy Orenstein's blog), which apparently is for a new show (with a complete line of toys and other products too, of course) aimed at young girls: Monster High. Definitely a horror show but not the good kind. If it wasn't aimed at young girls, it might actually be funny (in a "South Park" kind of way) but only for self-actualized girls (which 8-year-olds certainly are not!).

Think about the images you see of women--what are they telling you? Earlier tonight I saw a TV commercial for some sort of acne medicine, obviously aimed at teen-aged (and pre-teen) girls. The woman was flawless, but nevertheless she was complaining about one pimple, which she referred to as the "worst thing." I'm sorry, but not even when I was a teenager with raging acne (it was certainly never just one pimple) did I think of a pimple as the "worst thing." Teenagers have so much on their minds that the last thing they need to hear is that it's horrible to have just one pimple.

Some Things to Remember:
--It's okay to have a pimple (it's okay to have more than one!)
--Not all girls like pink (and it's okay for guys to like pink)
--Not all smart girls drool or wear glasses (now you'll have to watch the Monster High video!)