Sunday, July 4, 2010

Session 4: Vocation

This week we dove into vocation, latin for 'calling.'  I picked up a lot of quotes I wanted to share from the book, The Search for Meaning in the Workplace.  You can find them below, with most of them being quotes from other people.

We read and discussed Scripture, including Isaiah's call (Isa 6:1-8) and Jesus' words on being the salt of the earth and the light of the world (Matt 5:13-15).  In Isaiah, we noticed a sense of unworthiness that Isaiah had to overcome in order to answer God's call.  He went from, "Who am I?" to "Here I am."  And you can almost add in Luther's words, "Here I stand, I can do no other."

To parallel this theme, we watched a clip from The Pursuit of Happiness, where Will Smith interviews for the job he's been trying for over a month to get.

Question: How do we break the cycle of unworthiness in order to answer God's call to pursue the desires of heart?  Also look at Gal 2:20 "For I have died in Christ...", Phil 4:13 "I can do anything through Christ who strengthens me," and 1 Cor 5:17 "Anyone in Christ is a New Creation."

We then watched a clip from Coach Carter, where a character quotes the amazing poem by Marianne Williamson, Our Greatest Fear (often mis-attributed to Neslon Mandela).

We then discussed some of the quotes below.
Vocation Notes from The Search for Meaning in the Workplace

Temptation in Work: to do the important, rather than the essential. (Nouwen)

Functions of Work:

"To give a person a chacne to utilize and develop his or her faculties; to enable one to overcome one's ego-centeredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services needed for a becoming existence." (E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful) (44)

"Good living and good working go together. Life and livelihood ought not to be separated but to flow from teh same source, which is Spirit. Spirit means life, and both life and livelihood are about living in depth, living with meaning, purpose, joy, and a sense of contributing to the greater community. A spirituality of work is about bringing life and livelihood back together again. And Spirit with them." (Matthew Fox, the Reinvention of Work) (51)


"Modern man has transformed himself into a commodity; he experiences his life energy as an investment with which he should make the highest profit, considering his position and the situation on the personality market. He is alienated from himself, from his fellow men and from nature. His main aim is profitable exchange of his skills, knowledge, and of himself, his "personality package" with others who are equally intent on a fair and profitable exchange. Life has no goal except the one to move, no principle except the one of fair exchange, no satisfaction except the one to consume." (Erich Fromm, The Art of Loving) (62)


"We make meaning out of our lives by our intention. It is our intention and willingness to act that makes meaning. Meaning-making encompasses both the present moment and future possibilities - both halves of reality. Our intention creates the meaning of present circumstances and events as well as the invisible future possibilities." (George Land and Beth Jarman, Break-Point and Beyond) (73)

Standards for Workplace: (76-77)
1. Shared Vision
2. Common Values
3. Boundaries
4. Empowerment
5. Responsibility Sharing
6. Growth and Development
7. Tension Reduction
8. Education
9. Feedback
10. Friendship
Making Money is Meaningless

"The ultimate purpose of business is not, or should not be, simply to make money. Nor is it merely a system of making and selling things. The promise of business is to increase the general well-being of humankind through service, a creative invention and ethical philosophy. Making money is totally meaningless, and insufficient pursuit for the complex and decaying world we live in." (Paul Hawken, The Ecology of Commerce) (93)

 Suffering Work

"Man does not suffer so much from poverty today as he suffers from the fact that he has become a cog in a large machine, an automaton, that his life has become empty and lost its meaning." (Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom) (112)

"Not to take possession of your life plan is to let your existence be an accident." (Irvin D. Yalom, When Nietzsche Wept) (114)

Five Strategies:
  • Self-Employment
  • Employee Ownership
  • Participatory Management
  • Value-Based Management
  • Reinventing Work
 Work as Grace

"Our work is meant to be a grace. It is a blessing and a gift, even a surprise and an act of unconditional love, toward the community - and not just the present community that may or may not compensate us for our work, but the community to come, the generations that follow our work" (209).

From another book, Awakened to a Calling: 

"Each of us holds within our souls the hope for soemthing more - something more than what we experience, accomplish, and consume. Sometimes that hope grows into longing for a life that brings together our dreams, our gifts, our wounds, and our truest loves. That longing is what pulls each of us toward vocation. If you feel that longing, be it a mild tingle or a sweet pain, then this book is for you." (5)

What's the dominant force in the world? Is it true? Can it be trusted? (68-9) (Walter Brueggemann)

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Session 3: Whose Work?

What is God’s work?
(Notes from Danny)

Then Jesus said to His disciples,
"If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. For what profit is it to a man if he gains the whole world, and loses his own soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? For the Son of Man will come in the glory of His Father with His angels, and then He will reward each according to his works." (Matthew 16:24-27)
  • What is particularly challenging about this scripture? How does this interact with our work?
    • Gives us hope, that if we are faithful in our works that there is a reward
  • Seek first the Kingdom of heaven: often vague, right?  What does that mean?
  • When we work to build ourselves up, what are the results?
    • Perhaps a dissatisfaction; a longing that often persists

 First Clip: Wall Street - "Greed is Good"
Second Clip: Thank You for Smoking - "I'm Never Wrong"

Read 2 Thessalonians 3: 6-13
  • Paul is saying here to follow His example. He is doing it the right way. From the scripture, how does he describe His work life?
  • Here is a command to be diligent and hard working. Therefore, hard work, discipline, and diligence is part of doing the work of the Lord. Yet often this leads to being overworked and burnt out. Another temptation we face is to UNDER-work. Question: What does it look like to be in the middle, to find a balance?
  • Paul seems to say that we should simple work for our needs. Paul’s needs basically were simply food. Today we seem to have a lot of “needs.” Retirement, college funds, student loans etc. How does this apply to our lives today?  Must we simplify our needs?
  • God’s work involves being humble. In humility, can we affect any change in the world?  How?
    • "The meek shall inherit the earth."  Really?  How?
Part of the answer may lie in Zech 4:6 - "Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit."  When we open ourselves to God's Spirit and allow God to work through us, enacting good and spreading generosity, we become conduits of the Holy Spirit.  If we're focused on greed or being right, then we're putting other values ahead of God.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Wendell Berry on Sabbath

Here are some excerpts from poet Wendell Berry on the Sabbath.  He captures some of the essential nature of rest and how it relates to work.
I leave work’s daily rule
And come here to this restful place
Where music stirs the pool
And from high stations of the air
Fall notes of wordless grace,
Strewn remnants of the primal Sabbath’s hymn.
(click to read the entire poem)

He also has another poem on the Sabbaths you can read: Sabbaths - 1985, I.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Session 2: Work & Rest

This week we picked up from where we left off last week: it's far too easy to either overwork or underwork (funny how underwork is not actually a word, but overwork is!).  As this clip from Waking Life shows, there are two kinds of sufferers in the world - those who don't have enough life, and those with an overabundance.  Could the same be said of work?

So which nature do you ascribe to, fear or laziness?  This actually a false dichotomy, for it only leaves us with negative answers.  And when we only have negative options, then the only noble thing to do seems to be... QUIT!  (YouTube won't let me embed this video, but it's a scene from Fight Club about the two main characters quitting their jobs).

The thing is, when it comes down to only thinking about what's best for ourselves, we become very selfish and make decisions based solely on ourselves and not each other.  Take for example this clip from Dilbert:

The dog doesn't give a darn about Dilbert because he's under the philosophy of "I think therefore I am."  There's a popular African proverb that runs counter to this, which says, "I am because you are."  This expression denotes the interconnectedness of us all, rather than viewing every person as an island (good fodder for any LOST fans like myself).

Another example of realizing the world's not all about us is from the ending of Groundhog Day, where Bill Murray goes from thinking he's a god to giving of himself to someone he loves:

But what does Scripture say in all of this?  One thing I wanted to emphasize this session is Sabbath, or rest.  Right after God creates the world in Genesis 1, God rests in the opening of Genesis 2.  God celebrates what is good, even though history has yet to begin.  Yet too often we want to know, "What's Next?" and thus never fully celebrate or rest in what IS.  Here's an illustrative story from Kurt Vonnegut's Cat's Cradle:
In the beginning, God created the earth, and he looked upon it in His cosmic loneliness.
And God said, "Let Us make living creatures out of mud, so the mud can see what We have done." And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man.  Mud as man alone could speak.  God leaned close as mud as man sat up, looked around, and spoke.  Man blinked. "What is the purpose of all this?" he asked politely.
"Everything must have a purpose?" asked God.
"Certainly," said man.
"Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this," said God.
And He went away.
 I'm not advocating a nihilistic view here.  All I want to say is that too often we jump to trying to figure out the purpose or meaning of our work, and this can get in the way of truly resting.

God commands us to rest as the 4th commandment (Exodus 20:8-11).  In Matthew 11:28-30, Jesus follows this commandment with an invitation, to come and find rest in him.

How do you find rest?  What do you do to rest your mind, your body, your spirit?  Is it in worship?  Exercise?  Prayer? Meditation?  What?

This week, may you find true rest from your work, that you might be fully engaged in the world and in life, fully working, fully playing, and fully resting.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Articles on Work and Focus

Recently I came across some interesting-even-tho-obvious articles about how much we work and how it affects our focus.

In this NPR report, it's best to get 10 hours of sleep... I know!  Who has that luxury?!  But a small study showed that football players were able to run faster on more sleep, and children with set bedtimes tended to perform better in school.  Now how about for adults...?

And then one has to ask, is multi-tasking with various tech gadgets making us more or less efficient?  One NY Times article shows that our overall productivity and focus decreases with the more time we spend texting, checking email, etc.  And our relationships suffer, too - especially for children.  We're addicted to being plugged-in, and it's damaging our relationships.

How do we find the balance between work and play, work and rest?
What are some ways you have set limits on when and where you check your email? Text? Talk on the phone?

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Session 1: The Nature of Work

Opening Questions:
What is the nature of work?  Is it something good, bad, a mixture?
What's the worst job you've ever had?  The best?
Why work?  (Money, reputation, something to do...)

Film Clip: The Devil Wears Prada
In this clip, Meryl Streep plays Miranda, a pompous fashion exec who is very demanding of her personal assistant, Andrea (played by Anne Hathaway).  In their car ride, they are talking about the sacrifices and ruthlessness of their work.  Andrea says, "I could never do something like that."  Miranda replies, "You already have," referring to how she got to go to Paris, where they are now.  At one point, Andrea asks, "What if this isn't what I want?"  Miranda says, "Everybody wants this."  Is this true?  Are we able to walk away from a job that has taken over our life?  What else strikes you about this clip? 

Film Clip: Office Space
Contrary to a job that means everything, there is the flipside: a job that means nothing to you.  Here we find Peter deciding not to quit his job, but simply not come in to work because he doesn't care anymore.  What is our incentive to work?  Money?  Stock options?  Something meaningful?  Something that will improve the world or help people? (mild profanity)

We also looked at Scripture to see what God has to say about the nature of work.  We find out in Gen. 1:28 that we are to 'subdue' the earth, or 'hold sway' - this certainly sounds like work.  Then in Gen 3:17-19 we read that Adam is cursed with toiling in the dust... that doesn't sound too appealing!  We then get the division of labor in Gen 4 with Abel (pastoralist) and Cain (farmer), with slavery in Exodus not too far behind!

But we mainly focused on this passage from Ecclesiastes 5:18-20:
18 "This is what I have seen to be good: it is fitting to eat and drink and find enjoyment in all the toil with which one toils under the sun the few days of the life God gives us; for this is our lot. 19Likewise all to whom God gives wealth and possessions and whom he enables to enjoy them, and to accept their lot and find enjoyment in their toil—this is the gift of God. 20For they will scarcely brood over the days of their lives, because God keeps them occupied with the joy of their hearts."
So we read that it is good to eat, drink and work, and rather than be occupied with the toil, stress or money that work may entail, we are filled with joy as we work for God.  Work is a gift from God, which is sometimes hard to remember. 

What else do you find comforting or challenging about this passage?