Archive for the ‘Work’ Category

Get Up And Do What Needs To Be Done

October 9, 2018

Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways and be wise! It has no commander, no overseer or ruler, yet it stores its provisions in summer and gathers its food at harvest.

I just love the language of the Proverbs. “You sluggard…” That is so blunt.

Yesterday I wrote about focus. Then I listened to an Eastside Christian Church podcast talk by Mike Breaux (pronounced bro for you non-Cajuns) on procrastination. Seems like a series brewing.

Sometimes we can’t focus because we just can’t get around to the work. We put things off. Dust the desk. Search on Google. Fix a cup of tea.

Go to the ant, you sluggard–it has no boss, yet it works constantly.

Get over the fear of starting.

Or maybe just plain laziness.

Sometimes you need a signal. Perhaps that cup of tea is the signal to sit down and write, or think, or draw, or make those phone calls.

I think of Garrison Keillor and the “sponsor” of Prairie Home CompanionPowdermilk Biscuits. Heavens they’re tasty, and expeditious. Give shy persons the strength they need to get up and do what needs to be done.

Consider the ways of the ant and be wise. Get up and do what needs to be done.

Workin’ For A Living

April 17, 2018

For my friend Emily who thinks deeply about the Mary and Martha story.

Workin’ for a livin’, livin’ and a workin’, I’m taking what they’re givin’ ’cause I’m workin’ for a livin’. — Garth Brooks and Huey Lewis

The Desert Fathers were a sort-of weird group of men who fled the cities and frequent persecutions in the first couple of centuries after the resurrection. They built monasteries in the deserts of Syria and Egypt. Sometimes they lived in caves. I have several books by and about them. Much of my “theology” comes from them. Here is a story.

A certain brother came to Abbot Silvanus at Mount Sinai, and seeing the hermits at work, he exclaimed, “Why do you work for the bread that perishes? We read that Mary chose the better part – namely, to sit at the feet of her Lord.” Then the abbot said to his disciple Zachary, “Give the brother a book, and put him in an empty cell, and let him read.” At the ninth hour the brother who was reading began to wonder why the abbot had not called him to eat. Sometime later he went directly to the abbot and said, “Did the brethren not eat today, father?” “Oh yes,” said the abbot. “They have just finished their meal.” “Well,” said the brother, “Why did you not call me?” “Because you are a spiritual man,” answered the abbot. “You do not need the food that perishes. The rest of us have to work. But you have chosen the better part; you have read all day and can surely get along without food.” Wisdom of the Desert

These were deeply spiritual men, but they understood life in a deep sense. They lived in the desert. They could not live from alms giving.

I talked about routines yesterday. Monks, even today, live by a rigorous routine of prayer, worship, study, work, worship, and prayer. We can learn from them even in our “secular” lives.

Remembering what the Apostle Paul warned the people in Thessaloniki. In his first letter, he assumed the imminent coming of Jesus and the beginning of the New Heaven and New Earth–the Day of the Lord. By the time of his second letter (2 Thessalonians 3:10), it was apparent that Christians were going to be here a while (he probably never imagined 2,000 years and counting). he wrote, “While we were with you, we gave this order: ‘If anyone doesn’t want to work, he shouldn’t eat.’ ”

The key word in the Mary and Martha story is actually “distracted.” Jesus says, “Martha, you are distracted by many things.” I know many women who worry even to this day about putting on a good meal when perhaps a simple meal prepared with love is sufficient for the guests so that there is time for conversation.

And even the abbot in the story expected others to work so that he could eat all the while condemning them for working. How often do we condemn others ironically while ignoring our own sins?

The Value of Resting

July 10, 2017

It is neither wealth nor splendor, but tranquility and occupation, which give happiness. –Thomas Jefferson

I’ve just finished another book. Rest: Why You Get More Done When You Work Less, Alex Soojung-Kim Pang. He published a companion book basically excerpted from this one Rest In The World: My Morning Routine in Kindle.

IN THIS BOOK, I’ve argued that we should treat work and rest as equals; that we should treat rest as a skill; that the best, most restorative kinds of rest are active; and that when practiced well, rest can make us more creative and productive, without forcing us into a funhouse mirror of endless work and ever-rising expectations.

Pang is another writer from a long line of thinkers stretching back millennia who discusses the powers of habit, routine, and focus. His book is packed with examples and scientific studies. 

Structure your day such that you have specific times of focused work and then times of unfocused rest. Perhaps that is walking the dogs or just walking in the park. Put a question in your mind and then “forget” it. Go out. Walk for a while. Ideas will come to you. 

Another part of rest involves other physical activity. Most achievers have engaged in a physically and mentally challenging hobby. Anything from mountain climbing to tennis to sailing.

Writers and other creative people have structured their days to rise early and spend the first couple of hours creating–writing, painting, whatever. Then they seek release and rest from “occupation” as Jefferson puts it through some form of physical activity. Kurt Vonnegut swam–also finding that at around 11 am the pool was not crowded.

CEOs and other such leaders, by the way, tend to rise early and then begin the day with their physical workouts.

Another part of rest is to get away for a period of time. A week. Several weeks.

There is much more in the book. It is worth the read. I’ll just leave you with a discipline–rise early, prepare your morning the day before whether it be writing or exercising, take a break once in a while.

What Kind of Person Will I Be This Year

January 4, 2016

Now in Joppa there was a disciple whose name was Tabitha, which in Greek is Dorcas. She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. … All the widows stood beside  [Peter], showing tunics and other clothing that Dorcas had made.

This is a story found in the Acts of the Apostles where Peter brings a woman back to life.

Let’s consider the woman, Tabitha, in the context of thinking about looking forward toward our new year. Who do I want to be this year?

First, she–well let’s pause there a second. She. To all those rigid people who misread Paul and other texts, here is an early example of an important woman disciple.

OK, I’m not going to be a she, but I can certainly learn from her example.

She was devoted to good works and acts of charity. I don’t write enough about the spiritual discipline of service. But if I could be known as a disciple who does good things for people, that would be good.

Sort of reading between the lines, it appears that she was a leader of a group of widows. Women who had lost their husbands were at the mercy of others in that society. Remember how the apostles wanted Paul to raise money to support widows back in Jerusalem? One of the powerful acts of service of early disciples was caring for the unfortunate, such as widows.

She must have been a leader of the group, discipling them, doing good works such as making clothes for them most likely out of her own wealth.

For this next year, i’d like to be like Dorcas–do good works, lead a small group into discipleship, help people out of my wealth.

That would be a good year.

Productive or Busy

November 27, 2015

Seth Godin asks:

Is productive the same as busy?

No one complains of having spent an entire day doing ‘productive work’. Busywork, on the other hand, is mindnumbing.

It’s possible that if you have a job where your tasks (your busy-ness) is programmed by someone else, that being busy is your job.

For everyone else, though, busy might be precisely the opposite of productive.

 

David Allen has updated his classic book, “Getting Things Done.” Recommended–highly.

 

Thinking

 

How do we wind up on the “productive” side of Godin’s question?

 

We do it by thinking. And then by defining “next actions.” The key is to think through all the “stuff” you must do or accomplish, defining just what the desired outcome looks like, and then figuring out all the things you must do next–“next actions”–to further your project.

 

Few things contribute to work anxiety more than finishing a task and then wondering what you should do next. If you have disciplined yourself into a way of life like GTD and are using a support application (I use Nozbe with great success).

 

As we reach the end of the year and we begin to reflect on what we accomplished relative to what we had hoped to accomplish, perhaps now is the time to get serious about productivity.

Working Hard As Spiritual Discipline

November 5, 2015

When did you discover the value of working hard? Or, did you ever?

For me, it hit me somewhere around age 19. I just coasted through elementary and high school and “earned” from excellent to good grades. Then there was the university. Competition was tough. Classes were tough (and I wasn’t prepared either academically or in maturity for the jump).

Then, duh, I learned to go to class and do the work.

That is a life-long trait. I can relax, but I know the value and benefits of working hard.

Recently I have been listening to Rick Warren. He’s pastor of Saddleback Church in Orange County, CA. He’s been discussing living a blessed life (from the Sermon on the Mount, you know, Blessed are the …). Today he was talking about how God expects us to be people of integrity. And one example of integrity is to work hard. If someone is paying you for a day’s labor, then give that person your undivided attention and focus on the work.

Work becomes a Spiritual Discipline if done with the right attitude and focus.

Hard work also becomes a witness. I heard a story from a business man in a developing country. His example, his hiring practices, and his treatment of employees with the highest ethics served as a witness bringing many people into discipleship with Jesus.

Warren said, “Wouldn’t it be great if you could say I hire Christians because they always work hard and have the highest ethics.”

Bringing our spiritual life into all facets of our life is the most important thing we can do.