This year has been a year of change. After much prayer, I started my doctoral journey with anticipation. My vision of what life would look like this year was very different than it has actually turned out. It has been a good year, but a tiring year. A restless spirit seems to be hovering over me, as I grow and learn. My experience has taught me that this restlessness is a sign that God is beginning to lead me in a new direction. Knowing that the Lord had called me into this program for a reason, I shouldn’t be too surprised at the changes that have come since.
My journey commenced with a transformational trip to Cape Town, South Africa. Romans 12:2 (ESV) says, “do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” I’ve come to see that sometimes one needs to venture out of their comfort zone into new territories for “mind renewal” to happen. Cape Town was the start of a mind renewal process that I know is shaping me for future work that the Lord will call me to. As my career has unfolded over the past twenty years in the corporate world, I’ve seen God’s hand in each position. I’ve grown from each new experience and am honored to have learned from some great leaders. I’m still uncertain of the specific work the Lord is calling me to do, however He has opened doors for me to work with different types of organizations and to increase my teaching this year.
Throughout my consulting work this year, I’ve been exposed to both good and bad within Christian organizations. I’ve seen, first hand, the Protestant work ethic at play. Weber, in his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, asserts that our Protestant ethic has helped to shape Western capitalistic ideals.  It is this same work ethic that contributes to the American mentality of more work and less play. I’ve been greatly bothered by the demands that I’ve seen placed on workers. In many cases, workers are being exploited with the excuse of “sacrificing for the Lord”. They are often underpaid and left feeling devalued. Tension in the work or church environment is often high. Christian workers are burning out. Our modern lifestyle is moving at a pace in which people often find it difficult to have and maintain healthy social structures. Bauman, in Collateral Damage , examines social inequality and the implications, or cost to humanity. We should, and must, intentionally consider the choices that we make and how they impact others. As a society, we have placed value on things over human lives. Culturally and within the church, I am seeing dangerous trends that contribute to a general devaluation of people.
My research this year has focused on shalom within an organization. It is in the day-to-day interactions of an organization that one can see the fingerprints of God demonstrated. It is unfortunate that some organizations do not reflect Christ clearly to their workers or to the world around them, often due to poor culture or operational issues. Many have good intentions; yet fail to produce intended outcomes. In my work this year, I’ve been challenged to lead and navigate through some very difficult circumstances. I’ve also been in situations where my influence to effect positive change has been limited by things that have been outside of my control. Sometimes this has been frustrating. In these situations, I’ve realized that I need to work on developing a stronger presence so that I can more effectively speak into the situation. Marykate Morse’s book, Making Room for Leadership: Power, Space, and Influence, talks about the importance of having presence. “Presence is deeply connected to power. The more presence you have, the more influencing capacity you have. People with presence have the ability to walk into a room and get the attention and respect of its occupants.”
The past year has been transformational. I feel I’m on a journey with an unknown destination. Yet, I know that this is a time of preparation for a greater work that I am called to do. In time, I know that the Lord will reveal the details and provide me with needed direction. I’m grateful to be making this journey alongside some amazing leaders who offer me grace, while pushing me to become better. “Iron sharpens iron, as one man sharpens another” (Proverbs 27:17).
 Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Routledge Classics (London: Routledge, 2001), 17.
 Bauman, Zygmunt (2013-04-18). Collateral Damage: Social Inequalities in a Global Age (Kindle Locations 430-432). Wiley. Kindle Edition.
 MaryKate Morse. Making Room for Leadership: Power, Space and Influence (Kindle Locations 734-736). Kindle Edition.