Lisa Allgood, Executive Presbyter

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. Lamentations 3:22-23 –

Moving Forward: Find Your Approach

Lisa Allgood, Executive Presbyter

Moving Forward in 2024.  That’s our theme for the Presbytery this year.  We’ve been through a lot of changes, a lot of training, a lot of events over the past several years – time to take it forward, positively, boldly, with the confidence the Spirit gives us.

Now, I know there are more than a few of you who are facing a surprise challenge to the future you thought you were comfortably steering towards, or feeling a bit stuck (sometimes also known as “too comfortable to want to face change”). So let me tell you a story:

My first position in a pharmaceutical company was as an immunologist researcher on a ridiculously specialized machine called a Flow Cytometer.  It was so specialized and sensitive that it rested on a floating table to keep away any vibration of any kind, and sat in a little dark lab all by itself at the end of a long hallway – away from all the other labs (and all the other people). It took 6 months of training at the National Flow Cytometry Center in Los Alamos (yes, that Los Alamos, where “Oppenheimer” took place if you’re a movie watcher).

Essentially a Flow Cytometer assesses immune cells tagged with a specific dye that fluoresces when the cells are passed, one by one in a teeny tiny stream, through a laser beam set to the right frequency.  The dye does more than identify what cell was being tagged – it also identifies the state of the cell, in other words, whether it is active for any specific immune response – and then either counts the cells to get a sense of population percentages, or actually sorts them into purified colonies by also passing that teeny tiny stream through an electric signal.  We did a ton of early study on the immune system and its response to infectious diseases and cancer, as well as worked with a number of viruses (clearly preparing me for the appearance of COVID in this job!) – primarily rhinoviruses and HTLV3 and 4, which is what HIV used to be called.

This was in 1980, so before the age of personal computers.  Yes, I was the proud owner/operator of a Cray computer – state of the art, rivaling anything NASA had at the time.  It was awesome.

This was my lab (about half of it):

They’re a lot smaller these days… the new ones can be put on a desktop.

The needle through which these cells passed was about 1/10th the width of a human hair. So, as you can imagine, the needle occasionally got clogged – and it wasn’t like you could take a paper clip to jam through the needle and keep going.  No, it took a lot of finagling and finessing. And a lot of time.  And more than a little patience. Because sometimes it took hours.

After the first few times this happened, I knew there was nothing to be done but to keep at it.  So my approach was this – I would step back and permit myself one whine (“I don’t understand…!”), take a deep breath – and get back to it.

Worked every time.

It’s an approach I still use today.

There’s a lesson here, whenever we are met with a problem that feels frustrating and/or repetitive and/or petty but impactful.  Sometimes it’s a thing – a budget item, a building issue, a program thing.  Sometimes it’s a person. But here’s the lesson: Ignoring it stops all forward motion, all learning, and all opportunities for further momentum (it certainly would have stopped the flow of cells as well as my career).  Handing it off to someone else (in the case of the Flow Cytometer there wasn’t anyone else) means you lose all influence not only on the fix, but on whether the fix sets you (or your organization) up for progress.  Stepping over it and moving ahead without addressing it leaves it lurking in the background, ready to pounce on you at some unsuspecting moment at 3pm on a random Tuesday afternoon (OK, well, that might be too specific but you get what I mean).

So, when “that problem”, “that issue”, sneaks up on you, I highly recommend permitting yourself one whine – get it out of your system – and then get back to solving for it.  Because every time I do, I learn something new.  Every time I do it, I come out with a new approach.  Every time I do it – I move forward.

Let’s Move Forward for the Kingdom, together. Wishing you all every one of God’s most abundant Moving Forward blessings in 2024!