At our second Work Life Forum, 199 people heard Dr. Scott Symington preview his forthcoming new book Freedom from Anxious Thoughts and Feelings: A Two-Step Mindfulness Approach for Moving Beyond Fear and Worry. Dr. Symington discussed specific steps that can help us break free from our worries, address the challenges we face more effectively, and live more fully. Along the way presented a ground breaking new tool called the Two Screen Method.
The event video is available at the link.read more
The Fulton Street Prayer Meetings
and the Revival of 1857/58:
The Workplace Connection
A powerful revival occurred in 1857 and 1858. Sometimes known as the
“Businessmen’s Revival” by its contemporaries, a distinctive aspect of the revival was the extraordinary popularity of noon prayer meetings organized and led by business people. These meetings built on the pattern established by the Fulton Street Prayer Meetings.
There are important lessons that can be drawn from this success of this movement and the manner in which the prayer meetings were organized.
This is an updated version of an earlier article.read more
On October 30, 2018, Dr. Peter Hill spoke to our first Work Life Forum and presented the results of new research he and a multi-university team has developed about humility. A video of the event is now available;.
Humility is often misunderstood. It is not self-effacement or meekness, but involves having an accurate, ego-free assessment of ourselves, our abilities, and our limitations, and then being able to act accordingly. As such, humility can play an important role in how we deal with the stresses and conflicts in our work life. It can help us see and respond to circumstances more clearly and effectively, lower our stress levels, and improve our working relationships.read more
A Response to a Classic Essay on Work
I reread Dorothy Sayers classic essay “Why Work?” last week.Sayers made a compelling case that work should not be undertaken for the money it provides, but rather for the sake and enjoyment of the work itself. I find this idea personally appealing, but on reflection would like to take issue with Sayers on a couple of points.
The idea that we should work because we find it purposeful and fulfilling, and because it can be a full expression of our nature, is immensely appealing to many of us, and for good reason. And I certainly endorse the idea that moving in this direction can make our lives richer and more enjoyable, both for ourselves and for others. But I think Sayers overlooked a couple of critically important points.
Introducing Our New Small Group Guide
The Transforming Work: Spiritual Renewal in Our Work Lives study guide can help you think about the serious work issues you face and how your own faith or spirituality might help. It is designed for people who take their work seriously and would like their faith or spirituality to be an important resource that informs and supports them in their daily work. The guide can be used in small groups and for individual study.
The guide contains 12 sessions, each directed at a practical work issue. Each session includes an opportunity for prayer, a passage of scripture that might offer a new point of view on a serious work issue, commentary and questions designed to encourage reflection and discussion, and suggestions for the coming workweek. The appendix includes advice for new groups and new group leaders.read more
When people talk about their more frustrating work-related problems, quite often the issue of time, or the lack of it, comes up. For many people, there is not enough time to get everything done and this can be a serious and chronic source of stress. It seems as though fixing this one problem might make a huge difference in many people’s lives and in their ability to enjoy their work and their leisure.
Professor of Psychology Alex Szollos has put forward a very insightful and I believe useful idea. He suggests that chronic time pressure, that feeling of always being short of time, should be seen as an overarching concept that incorporates two related but distinct elements: 1) an objective element, in other words, an actual shortage of time relative to the demands placed on the individual; and 2) a subjective element, in other words, the subjective experience of being harried and rushed pretty much all of the time.read more
Elijah in the Wilderness
After a prolonged struggle with King Ahab and the priests of Baal, the great prophet Elijah was completely exhausted. He journeyed by himself into the desert and asked God to take his life; he then lay down under a broom tree and fell asleep, awaiting death. Elijah’s friends and allies were gone, he had failed to save Israel, and he was too tired to go on.
But an angel sent by God awoke Elijah and gave him food and drink. After more rest, the angel brought Elijah to Mount Horeb to meet God in a cave.
After experiencing a great wind, a powerful earthquake, and a fire, Elijah encountered sheer silence within which he heard the voice of God sending him back out to fulfill his calling. And so Elijah, refreshed, returned with power to the world and did indeed fulfill his calling from God. (Adapted from 1 Kings 19)
From our vantage point, it is easy to see Elijah as an extreme case of work-related burnout. He was exhausted, he was without friends, and he felt like a failure. Burnout is a big problem; if we have not experienced it ourselves, we probably will at some point in the future and in any case we probably know somebody who is confronting burnout right now. But there are things that we can do.read more
We have recorded 31 podcast episodes; most are available here and under our topical categories..read more
And the Fight Against Famine.
This week we talk about the story of Norman Borlaug and his fight against famine. We also note some of the theological implications of Borlaug’s work.
Borlaug was a Nobel Prize winner who died in 2009. His work in the field of agriculture may very well have saved hundreds of millions of lives from famine. He and his teams accomplished this by developing new breeds of wheat and new agricultural methods in Mexico, Pakistan, India, and other countries, at a time when each of these countries faced the prospect of mass starvation. And they did so in the face of powerful political opposition.
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Insights from the story of Joseph
In this episode we talk about financial crisis, and how our faith and our spirituality can help us prepare for and survive such crisis.
As we go through our lives most of us encounter financial ups and downs, sometimes very serious ones. This is true for both individuals and for societies. And in the interconnected world of today, the global economy as a whole can move through a series of economic expansions and contractions, sometimes leading to improved material well being, sometimes to hardship.
We will discuss the Biblical story of Joseph and the Pharaoh and how this might provide us with some important insights into how we can weather the storms.
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This week we talk about everyday heroes – – the people who show up for work every day, doing work they do not particularly like, in order to support others for whom they care.
We sometimes think of work done primarily for money as “just a job”, as though it has less importance than work done as a calling or even work done to further a career. But this is not fair.
It is important to think about not just the money but what the money means. There can be a tendency in some quarters to think of greed, a desire for material objects, or maybe a striving for social status. But in most cases, people are working for things that can have considerably more validity than the stereotypes might suggest. They might be working to create a better life for their children, move to a safer neighborhood, reduce the chronic anxiety of financial insecurity, or maybe just to put food on the table. All of these desires, and many others, are valid – – maybe even more valid than some of the so-called callings we sometimes hear about.read more
And the Call of Abraham.
Most of us encounter both risk and opportunity in our work lives – and sometimes a great deal of both. How we understand and respond to these can make a big difference in our work lives and in how we live.
This was true for Abraham many thousands of years ago when he willingly faced great risk, responded to a great opportunity, and did so in the belief that he was being called by God.
We need to look squarely at the reality of risk. It is present to some degree in each of our lives and attempting to deny it is likely to lead to a painful and unexpected awakening in the future. On the other hand, we also need to be alert to opportunity and not be dominated by our fears.read more
The Gift of Rest and Renewal.
Most of us know that we could benefit from periodically taking time off from our work and responsibilities, and enjoying a time of rest and renewal. But that does not make it easy to do.
The Biblical idea of the Sabbath, of taking one day of rest each week, can be a great gift to us – a day of rest and refreshment, a day when we can recharge and replenish, a day that might even lead us into the rhythm of a richer, fuller life.
We should see it as a gift, not as a set of rules and obligations.
If we can take some time off each week, and really let go of our work and our obligations, we will find that the Sabbath is a great gift to us, and that it can help us move towards a richer, fuller, less stressful life.(Time 9:11)
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A Story of Hope, Freedom, and the Possibility of Human Flourishing.
The creation story found at the beginning of the Bible, Genesis 1, had special meaning for the people of Israel during the period known as the Babylonian captivity.
In the years leading up to 587 BCE, Jerusalem, it’s Temple, and several other cities were conquered and destroyed by the Babylonian Empire. Many of the people were taken into captivity in Babylon and held there for more than 50 years, longer than a typical lifetime.
One of the things the Babylonians did to maintain their dominance was to bring people together periodically to hear the Babylonian story of creation, the Enuma Elish. This was an awful story that was an attempt to justify the oppression of the captive people by the Babylonians.
But the captives had another story — the creation story of Genesis 1. This was a much different story, one that involved freedom, human dignity, the goodness of creation, and the possibility of living a flourishing life. And this story was about the true God.read more
Cultivating a sense of gratitude can have important benefits for ourselves and for the people with whom we work. It is an important and beneficial quality, but few of us think much about it, and even fewer of us work at cultivating it.
Whether we are going through good times or bad times, if we can cultivate more gratitude we will tend to be happier, have more resilience, and be better able to form personal relationships and to help others. Gratitude helps us to be more open and appreciative of life and of other people.
This has obvious implications for personal well-being. But it also has important implications for our work life.
On this episode we will discuss the nature and benefits of gratitude, reasons why we sometimes resist feeling grateful, and how we might cultivate it.
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