Faith and Work ~ Work Can Destroy You

Pray | Lord, give us insight on how my faith should shape our work, because our work matters to you and to others.

This week in looking at work and its relationship to the fall in the Garden, we’ve seen that we’ve been working from the very beginning, and that work became more difficult after listening to the serpent. Limitations set by God are for our good, and brokenness causes us to ignore those boundaries creating difficulties in and between us. Today we’re considering how our faith can influence our work, and that if faith doesn’t, our work has the potential to destroy us.
Read | Psalm 119:30; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; Micah 6:8 

Psalm 119:30
I have chosen the way of faithfulness; I have set my heart on your laws.

1 Thessalonians 1:3
We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Micah 6:8
He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. 
Reflect | Spend some time reflecting on one or more of the following:

Pastor and theologian, Tim Keller, in speaking on faith and work, offers four ways faith can serve us in our vocation. The first is faith gives an inner stability without which work can destroy us
If our self-worth, importance, identity or competence comes from work, our successes go to our head and our failures go to our heart. If we are not absolutely certain of our worth, we’ll be whipped back and forth but faith can keep us grounded in the stormiest of times.

Faith reminds us of the dignity of all work.
With this truth central in our hearts, we won’t have a belittling attitude toward others’ work. The shutdowns during the pandemic revealed and reminded us of some of the unsung heroes in our midst. Our uplifting of them showed we valued their dedication and work, that their work very much mattered.

Faith gives us a moral compass without which work could corrupt us.
With so much pressure for profitability, and with culture leaning toward moral relativity, leaving our faith at the door may cause our clarity and conviction to become soggy and soupy.

Lastly, faith gives us a world view that shapes the character of our work, and without faith, our work could master and use us.
We might find ourselves giving more to our jobs than to our families, which in turn causes us to prioritize in a disordered manner, putting our best effort, energy and position toward work. Our work has the potential to shape us if we walk unaware of if we are shaping or being shaped by our work environment.

Though people can be difficult, and work is harder and slower due to a ground cursed with thorns and thistles, that’s not all we’re left with, we have faith. Faith gives us hope in all circumstances, so let us not leave it at the door as we finish our prayers, begin our day and enter our work.

Does my faith shape my work, or am I being shaped by my work? If so, how? Am I certain of my self-worth and identity outside of my job or role?

Written for Five Oaks Church Daily Life Devotional
Link here to the second message in a four part series on Faith and Work

Pastor Jonathan Haage // (message The Curse of Work begins at 16:12)

Your Work Matters

Work, whether paid or unpaid, includes all meaningful and moral activity apart from leisure and rest. Work is fundamentally about contribution, not compensation, adding value to others. (Tom Nelson)

Pray |Lord, may my hands, mind and heart work as if working for you.

When babies are born and grow we see personalities, strengths, gifts, talents and preferences emerge. We watch them pretend to be explorers, builders, dancers, scientists, moms, dads and so much more. Before we know it they are coming alongside us to wipe up spills, pound nails, wash cars, plant gardens and whatever else we do; it simply seems to be in our nature to want to help. 

Read |  Genesis 1:28; 2:15; 3:17-19

Genesis 1:28
God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

Genesis 2:15
 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it.

Genesis 3:17-19
To Adam he said, “Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;
    through painful toil you will eat food from it
    all the days of your life.
It will produce thorns and thistles for you,
    and you will eat the plants of the field.
By the sweat of your brow
    you will eat your food
until you return to the ground,
    since from it you were taken;
for dust you are
    and to dust you will return.”

Reflect | Spend some time reflecting on one or more of the following:

It’s ironic to consider the toddler happily going back and forth across the lawn with his or her play mower, and then years later that same teen grumbling about having to mow the lawn. As adults, roles, jobs and careers that at one time were new and exciting many times become riddled with difficulties and frustrations. Though created to contribute, we see that work was made difficult through the fall in the Garden. Whether it’s a demanding boss or customer, an annoying co-worker, a deadline or budget that seems impossible to meet, power lines that need to be fixed despite the cold or heat, endless meals to plan and prepare, the umpteenth diaper change of the day, and on, and on, and on ~ in all work inevitably there will be difficulties.

Whether it’s outside or within the home, discipline, perseverance, growth, character and more can be developed through our work. Each of us absolutely has some level of influence in our work, is it my children, client, co-worker, neighbor, boss, or subordinate? How might I be influencing those I come in contact with on the daily? It can be easy to slip into believing that we work for the weekend, retirement, or to pay the bills, but as Christians we are called to work as if for the Lord, and to do it with all our hearts (Col. 3:23-24), despite the sometimes painful labor and toil.

Are you aware of your influence through your work? Have you considered your work as a part of kingdom work? If not, would your perspective and purpose shift if you did?

Written for Five Oaks Church Daily Life Devotional
Link to the first message in a four part series on Faith and Work ~
Why Your Work Matters to God and Why God Matters to Your Work
by Pastor Henry Williams

(message begins at 19:21)

See (and be) a Helper

While driving on a stretch of interstate recently I saw several cars pulled over onto the median on the other side of the highway. As I drove by I saw a car smashed against a bridge support and people running to the vehicle. Running so fast, to someone they didn’t know, to help.

In a time where divisiveness, being rude and mean is easily recorded and splashed before us, it’s easy to believe we’ve lost our good nature. It might seem that a thin veil covers a deep well of a negativity; that an angry outburst, from even the most mild-mannered among us, could happen given the right topic, time or forum.

As we marked 9/11 a few weeks ago I was reminded of Mr. Rogers. Do your remember his mother’s wise and calming words to him when he was a boy? On that sunny September 11th, in the midst of unspeakable evil that unraveled before our eyes, we were encouraged to tell our kids (and maybe even ourselves) to “Look for the helpers.” There were so many helpers in the rubble, in the air, on the ground, in the stairwells, on the street, on the phone…they were everywhere.

I heard those very words in my head as I watched several men running toward the highway accident; there they were, the helpers. My heart lifted and my spirit was reminded that it is our very natural nature to be a helper. We instinctively run to our fellow man in need.

There are many helpers all around, we need to look for them…and we need to be one. When have you last seen a helper? Or have you been a helper? Would you share it in a comment? Your story might just lift someone else’s heart and renew a tired spirit.

The Wisest Christmas Gift

With kids who truly lack for nothing,  we decided to do Christmas in a completely different way two years ago. Instead of shopping for presenTs we chose presenCe. We purchased plane tickets and signed a rental agreement for a house in Arizona. Courtney, Zach and Erin were 20, 18 and 15 years old when we told them time together was the best gift we could bestow on them for Christmas. We stayed home to attend Christmas Eve service, enjoyed our traditional late night feast of hors d’ourves, slept for a few hours and then early Christmas morning we left on a jet plane for warm weather, sunshine, a pool and seven glorious days together.

It felt a little risky, but it also felt a lot right.

To be transparent we did give a few small gifts, mostly stocking stuffers, but their biggest and most important gift was in the form of a simple but significant envelope ~ a letter letting them know they had each been gifted 5 Wisemen for 1 year. “Back in the day” families lived so much closer to each other making a way for natural influence and more opportunity for grandparents, aunts and uncles, even neighbors and friends to be very involved in the life of a family. With that missing today we came up with the idea of “wisemen” traveling with our kids for a year ~ keeping with our theme of presenCe instead of presenTs!

We wanted to give our kids voices that didn’t belong to us; voices that could be trusted and perspectives that were different. So we created a list of people we wanted to speak into our kids ~ specific voices for specific reasons. We wanted them to have wise friends and family who would spend a year talking to them about life and work experience, integrity, faith, character, struggles, triumphs and more. We know there is much to be discussed about relationships, friendships, social media, pressures, college, marriage, humility and strength. With our transient culture, the proliferation of social media (which promotes many good things but also some a significant amount of superficial sharing), with feeling like Christian faith is being attacked and mocked in the media, and inappropriate language and conversations being overheard on a daily basis at school and at college, we believed this was one way we could speak goodness, value, belief, faith, character, integrity and more into Courtney, Zach and Erin. We also thought this was an intentional way of bringing adults directly into their lives for real relationships.

Here’s the thing we also knew ~ people are busy, which is why we spread it out. We approached five people for Courtney, five for Zach and five for Erin. We asked them if they would consider entering the life of one of our kids in a very intentional manner over the course of the new year. We asked them if they would email, call, or meet for lunch or coffee 2 to 3 times during that year. With 5 people reaching out to each of them 2-3 times a year, that would be at least 10 to 15 conversations with other adults who cared about them. That my friends, is quite a gift.

Each of our kids received a specific person who could talk to them about their future careers, someone who would meet them where they were on their faith journey and walk with them.  They each received one extended family member, as well as one person who I felt was put on our hearts for each particular child. Lastly they each received the gift of a dear friend of mine who has been in our lives for many, many years, I chose her because as our kids were turning the corner of adulthood I wanted her voice to go with them, linked more directly to them instead of just through me. It was quite a year – there were lunches, very early morning coffee dates, Skype times, notes and cards in the mail, texts, conversations, mentoring, walks and more. As a parent it was incredible to watch other really good adults pour into our kids.

I told our kids I was writing this article and asked each of them what they took away from, or appreciated about, the year of the Wisemen. Zach, now 20, said he liked that it put mentors in his life, he said he got a lot out of things that he was taught, but his big takeaway was the importance of a mentor in his life. Courtney, now 22 appreciated knowing that people of influence in her life, people she thought highly of and looked up to, were thinking of her and had committed to guiding her. Erin, now 17, says “Having other adults cheer me on in life was meaningful. Also as a kid it can be hard to create relationships with adults, even though we want to, so it was beneficial to have a catalyst for these relationships that we could develop.”

The wisest Christmas gifts we ever gave was the gift of wise men and women to walk a little more intentionally alongside our kids. It seemed a good time to write this – as we scurry busily around during this season it’s good to be reminded that what we truly need most isn’t all the presenTs under the tree, it is the presenCe of others in our lives.

Living Under the Influence

I have a wonderful opportunity next week to speak to a group of mostly retired women and some men. Upon receiving the invitation I immediately wondered what could I possibly say to a group who should be speaking into me?! But once I accepted the engagement I was sure of my message ~ You still matter, your influence is needed and valuable.

In a world moving a thousand times faster than in my grandparents day, when we seem to know it all (or can find our answer in the blink of an eye), it might just be possible that the elders in our lives could feel marginalized. Some of us feel so busy we worry that a phone call to a friend might seem intrusive. (Plus why talk when we can text? Insert sarcasm.) So what might possibly run through our parents’ and grandparents’ minds when they think of us and want to reach out? I wonder if they skip the contact because they don’t want to “get in the way” of our day.

Great-Grandma & Erin June 2001I will always be grateful for, and never forget the year my husband’s 90-year-old grandmother lived with our family. One of the moments that influenced me greatly was the day she sat at the kitchen table and asked if I would sit down and have a cup of coffee with her. I remember it vividly — I said I would pour her a cup but that I didn’t have time to sit down. In my mind was I thinking, Can’t she see I’ve got a sandbox full of sand on my floor waiting to be swept and dishes piled in the sink, not to mention the need for a shower and a dinner plan?! I don’t recall what caused me to sit down with her, but I did. Thirteen years later I still remember the sunny day I choose to sit for that cup of coffee. I recall feeling peace overcome my soul and being grateful for the reminder that people matter more than lists and sand and dishes.

That year we shared many cups of coffee and I learned to slow down. There were so many afternoons I sat across from her asking her stories about her past, and writing many of them down. She had a baby — out of wedlock — all those years ago. Imagine how strong she had to be, back when they called those children a name I won’t write here. I learned about how children, in her family line, had been “farmed out.” If you have a great-grandma, ask her what that means; it was common in our history.

That year had some difficult times, but what I gained and how she influenced me will be with me forever.  I was taking care of her but in the end it turned out we were taking care of each other ~ it was an unexpected and everlasting gift.

When I go to speak next week to the ones who carry so many stories, a lot of history and maybe a little insecurity about how they fit into the bustling extended family of 2014, I want to bring your input too. I have created a quick 10 question survey that I would so grateful for you to take. I want to tell them (and show them data) that their influence matters.

You can take the survey here:     Thank you!

Please feel free to share this link – gathering as much input as possible would be amazing. :)

Crisis – I Lost My Phone!!

Guest Blogging today is my daughter Courtney. She sent this post to me months ago and it kept getting lost within my in-box…today it has been found. (The post, not the phone.)

On my first day back on campus for my junior year at Purdue, the unthinkable happened… I lost my phone. I had met up with a friend to catch up and drink some bubble tea by the clock tower, and at some point had received a text asking what I was doing later that night. I responded, set my phone down, finished up tea, and walked back to my apartment. Halfway back, I realized that the miniature computer I had only had since last October was not in my purse… or my pockets… and when I walked back to the bench we had been sitting on, I found that it wasn’t there either. I tried to text the friend I had been hanging out with, only to remember that was nearly impossible without a phone.

I traced my steps a few times and said a silent prayer of thanks that I already had dinner plans, so when I arrived at the restaurant I had my friends call my phone and leave a voicemail. “Wait… you need my password to get into my voicemail. WAIT… you need my tracer passcode to get into my phone.” I remotely installed apps for lost phones, set a screen telling anyone who found my phone to call my mom at her number, forced my phone to send me pictures and sound bytes of its location, tried to use GPS (the radius of its potential location was 1856 meters. Thanks, phone), and went on several recon missions until the battery’s inevitable death. For days after I frequented the campus’s lost and found locations and checked the activity online, but all my efforts were fruitless, and remained fruitless for the next two weeks, until I got a SIM card for my high school flip phone. But during those two long weeks, something crazy happened.

I survived the experience.

The thing I was most worried about was becoming a social recluse. How do you make plans without a phone? But I found something encouraging – when my friends wanted to see me or were making group plans, they made the effort to reach me on Facebook or texted the people they thought I would be with to make sure I was still getting included. After a two-day-long withdrawal period, it was even kind of nice not having a phone in my pocket all the time, and I found I was able to focus for longer periods of time on a single thing. The drawback was I did get a little Facebook addicted, but when I wasn’t around a computer that wasn’t really a problem.

Thanks to my incredible parents (who dealt with two weeks of intermittent online chatting, as my computer mic was also broken, taking Skype convos out of the picture) I do have a functioning phone now, and I would absolutely choose having a phone over not having a phone (just being honest). But it was nice to get a little taste of a life unwired; it allowed me to see that I didn’t need to be constantly connected, and the friendships I had were meaningful enough that my friends put a little bit of extra effort into including me. I do feel as though phones and iPads and all this social connecting all the time has driven us a little up the wall, and the confirmation that I could survive without it all was good, as I really do sometimes wonder. It’s something good to keep in mind as we go through our lives in this culture – you can survive without a constant connection!

Random thoughts that cannot seem to be contained

I’m just having a hard time today with the killing of these children and teachers in Connecticut. These are the things swimming in my head today ~

I’m thinking about all the violent, personal warfare video games (and the insistence that it’s fine for kids to be playing these types of games). I’m having a hard time with the efforts that have been spent on legalizing marijuana; this thought courtesy of an article in the paper this morning (in the same section as the many articles on these killings). Why is this something our culture values?

The passionate plea to end ANY mention of God in schools, the expulsion of our church youth leaders from the lunchrooms of our schools, Christmas trees in public places now being called “Holiday Trees” or “Celebration Trees”. We all know they are Christmas trees. You can call them what you want, we still ALL know what they are.

The mocking of Christians & Christian beliefs in mainstream media – and yet the prominent pictures showing up today in mainstream media of people praying, and mainstream media displaying images of the hundreds and thousands of people in churches. We mock it, then are grateful for the peace and comfort these images create within us. I’m grateful mainstream media shows these pictures, I’m just confused by the constant mocking.

My mind can only think about all of this in small bites, then I have to divert my mind. In a chorus of a worship song this morning, I dropped to the floor, with tears splashing on the tile on behalf of these families. When I got up I had to move my mind to a different place – I could not think about it any longer.

I’m horrified for the parents, families and communities who don’t get to divert their minds. I’m just aghast by the families drowning in sorrow today.

Listening to worship music, and praying, praying, praying….

A good article by Rev. C. Emily Heath in the Huff Post. Dealing with Grief: Five things NOT to say, and five things TO say in a trauma involving children. Read it here.

What the Heck

A story on NBC’s Today Show yesterday highlighted an area in which I believe so many of us are falling down –  it’s as if we’ve forgotten that it’s our job, our responsibility, to teach respect, honor and integrity to our kids.

Here’s the story, an Oklahoma high school valedictorian, Kaitlin Nootbar, submitted her written graduation speech to her principal for approval. In the speech she had this line, “They’re gonna ask us what we’re gonna be and we’re gonna say, who the heck knows”. The problem is she was pretty sure she was going to say “Who the hell knows” (a line from the Twilight movie, Eclipse). She said in the Today Show interview that she discussed this with her partner with whom she wrote the speech, and then again with classmates right before giving the speech, all encouraging her to stray from the written, and approved, line. So she did, and now the principal is holding her diploma certificate until she apologizes ~ a reasonable request.

In the Today Show piece Kaitlin says she won’t apologize; she says she’s not sorry and that she doesn’t really need her diploma anyway. Matt Lauer turns to her father at one point and says that he (Matt) is a parent and was wondering what he would do; would he want her to give in to the school, or would he want to teach his child the lesson of standing his or her own ground. (Personally, I don’t think it’s either of those lessons) He then asks the father how he feels. The father said he wanted her to stand her ground, that he is a veteran, she has freedom of speech and why should she “bow down to this man”, and give her rights away.

Oh my goodness. “Bow down to this man”, really? How about a lesson that goes like this, “You were under the authority of the school, you purposely used a word in a commencement speech you knew you shouldn’t use, but you did. You knew this would cause a problem, so now, show some level of respect, go apologize and move on with your life.”

Instead she gets to fly to New York City and be highlighted on a national news program where many people applaud her for “standing her ground”. The ground that supports her decision to defy the authority over her, because she wanted to swear at a commencement ceremony. No wonder our kids believe the world revolves around them.

Kaitlin says the lesson from this whole thing is to “always stand your ground…that whatever is in your heart you should stand up for it…” (Unless you’re the principal, I guess she doesn’t believe he should stand his ground.) NBC conducted a poll and 88% of respondents said she should not apologize, 12% said she should. Really, a poll was conducted for this?! But the results are revealing.

Some will say this a freedom of speech issue, I believe it’s a character and lack of self-discipline issue. When we glamorize and jump to the defense of the kids in situations like this, we just cannot be surprised when they function as if they are the center of the universe, or when they have a hard time with authority in their lives, or when they come to job interviews and ask questions like “How long can I be on the internet before I get in trouble” (This question was actually asked by a college student during an interview at my husband’s company).

There is such an emphasis in our culture about doing what you want, when you want, no matter what, and then defending it. I just believe we should also be emphasizing building integrity and honor, within our kids. What do you think?

You can see the interview here.

Are we as outraged by Syria as we are by Chick-fil-A?

Normally I don’t enter into headline news type conversations – especially political ones. To be honest, I usually don’t think I’m smart enough to say anything of value, or I don’t feel I understand the issue or care passionately enough to enter the dialog. Not to mention there typically is more than enough dialog going on. But this one is stirring in my head, my heart and it was worked its way to my fingers, which have moved to the computer this morning.

Chick-fil-A…oh my goodness.

First of all, the news clip I watched yesterday and in the article I read this morning, what I heard and read was that Dan Cathy told the Baptist Press that the company was “guilty as charged” of supporting the traditional family. “We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit…” I then went and read the entire article in the Baptist Press. You can read it here. (I believe it’s good to read with your own eyes and not believe what the media is shouting through headlines…maybe I’m smarter than I think.)

What really pushed me into the conversation is that I’m so sick and tired of the media and celebrities and organizations turning a stand FOR something into a stand AGAINST something. What is wrong with us that we so strongly bash a privately held company – that has experienced 44 consecutive years of positive sales growth – in an economy that NEEDS sales growth (!!) – who this year is expected to generate more than $60 million in economic impact through TWO (never done before) Kick-Off Bowl games.. Yeah – lets bash that company, who needs that kind of economic infusion?

I’m sick and tired of late night comedians taking a stand FOR something and creating vulgar skits, bashing any support of marriage, and with open hostility attacking a union from which they came. Seriously, we don’t need to become so incensed with each other. I believe we can take a stand FOR something without cutting up and slashing another perspective. The picture of standing for a position with fists up and mouth wide open while yelling makes me completely miss anything positive you might have to say.

I know there are many instances you could give me where people who claim to speak for Christians do the same thing. I know. But I’m not talking about that today, I’m simply addressing a positive article written about a company that has a goal in the workplace “to take biblical truth and put skin on it. … We’re talking about how our performance in the workplace should be the focus of how we build respect, rapport and relationships with others that opens the gateway to interest people in knowing God.”

I’m talking about a company that supports kids in foster care, college scholorships, marriage conferences, and the economy. Who wouldn’t want a company like that in their city? I support Chick-fil-A for being a positive company, for being a company that doesn’t bend to the pressures and whims of culture. Thank you Chick-fil-A….I’ll see you for lunch.

(A CNN article about Syria – Massacre feared in Syria’s Aleppo)