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 not too hard 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.
On June 18, the third Work Life Forum featured Dr. Sam Alibrando speaking on the subject “Working with Difficult People”. The event was held at La Canada Presbyterian Church in La Canada, California. The video of Dr. Alibrando’s presentation is now available.
The fulfillment, satisfaction, and enjoyment we find in our work are heavily dependent on the quality of our working relationships. There is very little in our work that can make us as miserable as a painfully difficult working relationship; the pain and stress of a bad working relationship can even bleed over into the rest of our life.
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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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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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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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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