Saturday, December 3, 2011

Remembering Grace

Last year at this time I was still in school. I was studying furiously for finals and working on my senior design project for my degree. I didn't have a job yet, either. It is so hard to think that all of that was only a year ago.

I was not doing well in one of my classes, to the point that I could have failed. But my God's grace, I was disciplined enough to study well for it and passed the class. I also had a super difficult project for my senior design class. This thing was relentless. It took at least thirty hours a week to work on. And that was in addition to everything else I had to do.

Still so weird to think back and say that was simply last year. I was so stressed about not having a job, yet. Most of my classmates who were graduating with me were getting job offers left and right. And I had gone on several interviews and only gotten "no". This was so discouraging. Especially since I had just recently felt that God actually wanted me pursue a full time career in chemical engineering. And then there was nothing that confirmed that. Such a strange time in my life.

Little did I know, although I had thoughts, that God was working something great. While I was working to secure a job, a job was being secured for me. I was having lunch with a friend in Fazoli's (if you live in college station and have never had their Tuesday/Thursday special, you need just might be an open door to a job) and I got a phone call from the company that I would soon call home. They wanted to give me a phone interview after looking at my resume. I gave them an interview and even a desired salary, which I later found out I probably shouldn't have done, although God didn't hold that against me. The strange thing is that I never gave this company my resume. I know this because I was pretty meticulous about keeping records of who I gave my info to, and they were no where. But this wasn't about to stop me from trying them out.

The next week I called them back and asked if there was any news, there wasn't. It was Thanksgiving week and they wouldn't get back to me until after that week. So I waited, and prayed. Oh, did I pray. The following week I received a phone call from the HR in Houston asking me to come in for a face to face interview. After working I details, we scheduled an interview for the following after, after I finished all my finals.

The Wednesday before graduation I went in to interview and it went well! Int was an amazing interview and so smooth. I had never felt this good after an interview before. (as a side note, I personalized every resume that I handed out, and I took a peek at the resume that they had, and it was personalized for the company. There was no obvious way that they could have gotten it). After that interview, I went. Home and sent out thank you emails to every one, and then I headed back to college station for a night of parties. I was meeting with my senior design team for dinner, my small group for a Christmas party and some friends to hang out. After all that fun, I got back to my apartment around midnight and decided to check my email before I went to bed.

The email read " Serge, thank you for your time this morning. I want to be honest with you and tell you that you impressed everyone that you met with today. We would like to move forward with extending you an offer." My heart dropped to the ground. I was speechless. What could I say. For a whole semester I ran around trying to get interviews and failing so badly, then this opportunity drops into my lap. It had to be God. Thank you, Father.

I accepted the official offer which was made on the morning of my graduation. So in one day I finished 16 years of one occupation and started 40 years of another. And it has almost been a year since that time. Wow.

To tie off a loose end, I went recruiting with my company this year and was talking with the HR lady in charge of college recruiting about how I never really submitted a resume. I found out that at the same time that I was trying to find a job, my company was hurting for new hires. So they actually went online and searched for resumes from chemical engineers at A&M and they found me. God works in the most wondrous ways. His grace is enough

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving and the Church

So yesterday was Thanksgiving, as most people know by now. And even though I am Lebanese, my family does celebrate Thanksgiving, well my family in America does. Family in the rest of world does not. I digress.

This year, my family was not all together as usual . Typically we all get together and have a potluck type meal. The host family usually makes the Turkey and everyone else makes the extras. This includes the wide range of Thanksgiving staples: ham, stuffing, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry sauce, deviled eggs, gravy, etc. Now I don't necessarily enjoy all the typical stuff, but I appreciate it.

This year, though, since about half the family wasn't here with us, there were foods that were missing. And we didn't realize it until we had sat down to eat. We almost forgot the rolls. No one brought gravy or green beans. Actually there were no vegetables at all. There was a lot of foods missing. That isnt to say that I wasn't grateful for all the food provided. And I actually at everything there, cause it was all really good and I didn't have to overload myself to try all the food on the table. So it wasn't really all that bad. But for the sake of my metaphor let's pretend it was awful. :)

I realized as I sat at the table with no gravy that each person of the family contributed a certain food to make a complete table. Without everyone there the table was missing certain elements. And I remembered what Paul had wrote about in his letter to the Corinthians about the body of Christ. And how the eye could not say to the hand that it didn't need it. Each part of the body is needed to prove to be profitable to the rest of the body. And without one part the rest of the body suffers.

I know it's a stretch, but the food missing from the table made a Thanksgiving meal that was incomplete because some of the people from the family were not there. In the same way the body of Christ is hurt when someone is missing. Each person brings something to the table, something only they know how to bring. Each person has a gift that has been given to them by God. And we all need to contribute.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Intimacy with God

So at work one of my many roles as a process engineer is to create drawings of the process that I am designing. The two sets of drawings that I am most familiar with are called Process Flow Diagrams (PFD) and Piping and Instrument Diagrams (P&ID). I know that those don't mean anything to most of you, but it is just a set up, so follow me.

For the project that I am on right now, I am actually drawing these diagrams. Like I literally sit the with a pencil and ruler and eraser (for my many mistakes) and draw every line. We finally issued our first set of P&IDs the other day. I was looking through them with a co-worker today and noticed how much I knew about the drawings. I mean, I drew every line, every valve. I know this drawing back and forth. I know its purpose and the purpose of everything on the drawing. I am intimate with these drawings. I know them well because I made them.

In the same way, God made me. He formed me purposely and knows my purpose. He is intimate with me. His knowledge of me goes beyond what I could even imagine knowing about these drawings. This is intimacy.

I can rest knowing that God knows me so well. He knows me more than I will ever know.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Empty Calculations

The other day my boss was talking about a company he had done a job for. He was talking about how the work he had done was so foolish. All the calculations were just busy work and simply stupid. They would have assumptions that did not make sense and messed up the whole calculation. And they didn't care as long as it looked like they did a lot of work.

My boss made a point to say that this company wasn't a bad company because they didn't spend money on safety and calculations, but because they spent tons of money but it was directed at the wrong things. This company, according to him, spends almost more than any of their competitors in the very places that they are worse at.

That is when I thought of a blog post. It reminded of the religious in our time (and Jesus'). They spend a lot of effort on the doing the right thing. No one can deny that they are really trying hard to be good. In fact they are trying harder than most. They are expending so much energy and effort to get to this place of right standing with God. Yet, they are not righteous. Their good deeds do not cover over their sins. They are still evil sinners who have no place before our holy God. And it isn't because they don't try.

Yet God doesn't expect us to earn anything. He knows that we are not capable. He knows that we can not do anything to be righteous, and he has planned for that. He doesn't want us to work for our salvation. That is why he sent Jesus. Rather, we are to trust in his grace to work in us to do good. I am not saying that we are to be bad and not work to do good. But God wants our good work to be found in his glorious grace.

Today, are you like that company my boss did a job for who is looking toward their effort to be seen as good? Are you expecting to be rewarded for having done more or performed better? Or are you looking to the cross? Knowing full well that your only hope is outside of yourself. Knowing that only be the grace of God are you even able to be counted as righteous. Is your good work coming out of a heart of praise?

These are questions that I have been asking myself. I hope they help you look at your life from a different angle.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Behind enemy lines

At work a few days ago I was at a meeting for a project I worked on this summer. The project manager was commending the whole team for the work they had done. It was an impossible project schedule, yet we actually completed in time and under budget. And he used an analogy that I really thought applied to the spiritual life.

He said that there are two ways to look at a difficult
project: we can either think of it as being held captive behind enemy lines or we can think of it as occupying enemy territory.

I think this is a good analogy for us, as God's people, since we really are foreigners in this land. We are native to here, this isn't our home. In fact, this land is enemy territory. So we really do have two response, we can either mourn our status as captured and give into the ways of the enemy and die.

Or we can occupy the territory we are in. We can fight for God. Claim victory in Christ. For this is a war and we are in it. And we are called to fight.

This looks like living with a mission. You are where you are to do some thing. To avoid preaching, I am a process engineer in Houston, TX to impact the kingdom of God here in this place. There are lost souls and weak brothers and sisters who need the gospel of God each and every day. I am not supposed to sit back and let the enemy take a stronger grip on the lives of those around me. I will fight, I must.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Hope that fails

In Romans 5:3-5, there is a discussion about suffering and why it is good for you. It produces endurance and character and hope. And hope in Christ does not put to shame. This post is NOT an exposition of this verse. It is a story that talks about hope that does put to shame. It helped me understand (in an elementary way) why it is important to have a hope that doesn't fail.

A few weeks ago I was working on project that required massive overtime. I was working 55 hours a week, and that is less than most of the people on my project. So this really took a lot of time. At the time of this story, we had just been informed earlier that week that our deadline was no longer the following Friday, but in fact that Wednesday! So as you can imagine, we put it into overdrive (we were told of this the Monday of the same week).

Well, turns out that we had a little wiggle room, but we had to be done by Thursday evening. So on Wednesday my direct lead was talking to me and suggested that it was possible that we wouldn't have to work on Friday, and may even be able to leave a little early on Thursday. I didn't think much of it, because I have learned to be skeptical about stuff like that (which I may  need to discuss at some other time).

The next day was Thursday...and we finished! We really did. All our documents went out and were out of our hands. Success! My boss kept coming around talking about not coming in on Friday and leaving early, and seeing how we finished so quickly, I started to believe it. In fact, I started to relish the idea. I was looking forward to going home early (which is actually the normal time I should be leaving). I had small group that night and was going to be able to relax beforehand. And oh the possibilities with a free Friday!

I received a text from my small group leader saying we would have to reschedule. Then my boss determined that we did have stuff to do, so I had to stay late on Thursday. And I even had to come in Friday to finish up some stuff.


My heart sank and I was upset! What an awful thing, right? Well I know that it isn't the worst thing in the world. And not even the worst thing that day, or even that hour, but I didn't like it. I had hoped to have some time off. But that hope wasn't really founded on anything. It had never happened before on this project. In fact, the precedence of this project was to make last minute changes all the time (as seen by the moving deadlines above). But I hoped in something that was a little silly, and it sucked when it didn't come through.

Going home that Thursday night I had to tell myself that the only thing to hope in, truly, is God. Yes, we need hope always, but it must be founded on God. I was reminded of Romans 5:4 and that hope never fails, when it is in God. And hope that fails just isn't fun. It doesn't feel good. I would hate to be hoping in something that actually matters ( as opposed to going home early) and have it put me to shame.

I'm glad to know that God is trustworthy and hope in him does not put me to shame! Amen

Monday, October 3, 2011

Lessons in leadership

I started my new project today. I like it so far. My new boss is all about training me (and my coworkers) for the long run. Not just to complete this project. So today he was telling me about how he wanted me to do my job, and I believe that it is really how I should be doing any job, and even stuff outside of work. So I thought I'd share it with my friends. He was saying that he wanted me to take leadership over my work. He told me to think before I asked questions and come up with a solution on my own. Even to implement the solution and then present it to him. He said that this way I would actually learn. If I just went to his office and asked him how to do it, I wouldn't learn. But through my mistake I would learn what not to do and the reasoning behind doing it a certain way. He also said that every person is a leader in his own realm. Each person is in charge of something no matter how small or big. And he told me about how it is each persons responsibility to take care of that area and to make it succed. This reminded me of two things from the Bible. First the parable of the talents. Three servants are given a different amount of talents each and left to their own. The master leaves, planning to come back at some time to reclaim the money. The first two servants work with their talents and double their original amounts. The third buries it, afraid of losing it. The master comes back and rewards the first tow, but punishes the third for being foolish. I don't know for sure that the oint of this parable is to tell us that we need to take control of our spheres of responsibility, but it sure made me think of this story. Also, I was reminded of the beginning of time, when God told Adam that he was to work the ground and rule over the earth. God gave man a kingdom to rule over and work in. He expected Adam to take care of it well. And I believe that the idea of rule is so big in our human-ness. Even in the curse, God tells Eve her desire will be to rule over her husband. Everyone wants control. I think that is waphy it is such a big deal to submit ourselves to Christ. We have to give up our lives to pick up something so much greater. We still have responsibility, but it is for a different kingdom. One that will last forever. Whose kingdom are you serving?