Norman Borlaug

Young green wheat growing in field.

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.
(Time 10:54)
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Weathering Financial Crisis

Financial crisis discussed by Joseph and Pharaoh

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.
(Time 8:47)
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Everyday Heroes

crowdThis 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.

In this episode we tell the story of one of these everyday heroes — an amazing working mother who provided a better life for her children. (Time 8:14)
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Risk and Opportunity

Mountain

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.

Our faith and spirituality can help. . .
(Time 8:08)
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Leisure and the Sabbath

Hammock in the Garden

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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Two Competing Visions of the Future: Freedom and Dignity in Genesis 1 vs. The Babylonian Captivity

Mosaic of lion in Babylon

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.

This is a very old story that nevertheless has important lessons for our work life and our work relationships.(Time 12:18)
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Gratitude

Grateful woman holding coffee cup outdoorsCultivating 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.
(Time 8:09)
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The Story of King Solomon

Solomon

Wisdom, failure, and the lessons for our work lives.

Solomon was one of the greatest kings in the Bible, perhaps second only to King David. He accomplished great things and had a reputation for having great wisdom.

But there is another side to the story, one involving the misuse of power and the resulting disaster. In this episode we will explore this story and draw insights that can help us in our work lives.(Time 10:33)
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Working With Courage

Courageously sailing boat in storm

Moving beyond mere coping.

Many of us encounter anxiety, stress and even fear in the workplace. There is a large amount of literature devoted to ways to cope with these problems; but instead of just coping, as though we are mere victims, what if we were able to move forward into the future with more courage? What if we could live more fully, with more vitality, in the face of what would otherwise be burdensome fears? Is it possible to develop more courage in our work?
In this episode we draw on insights from both positive psychology and the Bible in an attempt to learn how we might take steps towards developing the habit of living and working more courageously. (Time 9:46)
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Dealing with Toxic Relationships at Work

Man praying about workplace toxicity

The Role of Sin, Alienation, and Reconciliation.

The word “toxic” has taken on special meaning when applied to the workplace. When we hear someone speak of toxic bosses, toxic coworkers, or toxic working environments, we usually have a pretty good idea of the character of the relationships to which they are referring. We might not know the details, but we certainly know that something has gone wrong.

Most workplaces are not usually toxic, nor are most working relationships — in fact, quite the opposite. But most of us do run across workplace toxicity from time to time, and when we do it usually has a way of spoiling the fulfillment and satisfaction we might hope to find in our work.

Our goal should be to restore relationships, build community, and remove the dysfunction so that our work can be more effective, more fulfilling, and more beneficial for ourselves and for others.(Time: 11:10)
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Work As Service To Others

Waiter servingThere are great many products and services, and a great many jobs, that are needed to build and maintain a flourishing society: those who produce food and other goods, distributors and retailers, communicators of various kinds, accountants, lawyers, and administrators, and many, many others.

And here we have a problem – – a problem of perception. The contribution of the people doing many of these jobs goes unappreciated, at least in religious contexts.(Time: 9:01)
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When Callings Become Burdensome

Millennial working photoAn acquaintance in his late 20s made a very interesting observation a few days ago. He said that finding a calling has become a serious problem for people his age – – but not in the way that I had expected.

His contention was that there has been so much emphasis, especially among his peer group, to find your calling, or to follow your passion, that the concept has become burdensome. Rather than finding a job that pays some money and seems to have a future, many people feel they are under a great deal of pressure to find not only a job but a calling. This has made it more difficult for them to get on with life.

Part of the problem, of course, is that it can take a long time to find or develop a calling, as Bryan Dik and Ryan Duffy point out in their book Make Your Job a Calling: How the Psychology of Vocation Can Change Your Life at Work. This can lead to a great deal of frustration if we try to rush the process.

But I think there might be more going on here.

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We Need More Silence!

Photo man praying in silenceWriting in the Harvard Business Review Online (The Busier You Are, the More You Need Silence), Justin Talbot-Zorn and Leigh Marz lay out the arguments for why busy people need more quiet time.

According to the authors, research shows that “taking the time for silence restores the nervous system, helps sustain energy, and conditions our minds to be more adaptive and responsive to the complex environments in which so many of us live, work and lead.” They provide selected references from both neuroscience and psychology.

They make a number of concrete recommendations involving ways to build more quiet time into our busy lives. These range from five minutes of meditation and reflection during the work day to longer quiet periods such as an afternoon spent in nature or a weekend meditation retreat.

In this article, Talbot-Zorn and Marz focus exclusively on the secular benefits of intentional silence, not the religious and spiritual. This is understandable given that they are writing for a general business audience; I might do the same.

But I think this exclusively secular approach leaves out an important aspect of intentional silence — the spiritual experience it sometimes evokes. . .

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Small Group Curriculum

Small Group Guide Cover

Preview Small Group Discussion Guide

Transforming Work: Spiritual Renewal for Your Work Life is now available as a preview. Our small group discussion guide is designed to help people connect their faith or spirituality and their work, and to help them find ways to deal with work related issues. Each session includes a passage of scripture, a short commentary, and questions for discussion.

While it is formatted for use by small groups, it can also be used for individual study and reflection.

Our plan is to offer it for free as a digital download for thirty days and then, after receiving your feedback, offer it for sale. if you would like to download it for free, please visit our Transforming Work page and we will be happy to send you a link.

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The Power of Humility

Humble man in churchHumility, properly understood, can make an important contribution to our spiritual and psychological flourishing, and can have very important benefits for our work life.

It is helpful to think of humility as having to do with a reduced focus on one’s own self. The person with humility is less concerned with maintaining a high degree of self-importance, or high social status, and is therefore more open to information and insights from others, whether it supports his or her own viewpoint or not. This can be very important in our work life.

If we are more open to information that has not been filtered through our own ego needs, we are more likely see things as they really are and to act with wisdom. We are also more likely appreciate other people, and the contribution they make; this is bound to lead to stronger relationships, greater collaboration, and more effective leadership.
(Time: 9:01)
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