Tag Archives: work

Thoughts from a Book Group: Some People Don’t Need Sabbath

Hey folks,

It’s Easter Monday, which means clergy catch-up, or rest, or both. I’m still getting over being sick. So today we have a guest post of sorts, a wrap-up email I received from a good friend who leads an adult Sunday School class at his church:

We finished our Lenten study of Sabbath in the Suburbs
this past Sunday. Your book was overwhelmingly well-received (we’re
ready for the next one – “Sabbath in the Suburbs with Teenagers”?) We
had lots of good discussion and your study questions provided good
jumping-off places, not that we always needed them. Our main
takeaways as a group were: (1) You can’t do and be everything, Sabbath
should be the time when you’re free to admit that and be your
authentic self; (2) No “J.O.Y.”; (3) God wants us to be rested and
happy. Everyone liked the Sabbath hacks.

We had a really good debate about abundance vs. scarcity in our last
session, that to me was one of the strongest ideas in the book. We
also talked about “play” in the Bible. Remember the cute video of the
Christmas story with the kids from New Zealand (“They woon’t be
ixpicting that”)? I used that as an example of the playfulness of the
Gospel. We really like the section about Moses as the overworked
manager who doesn’t know how delegate.

I’m actually not familiar with that Christmas video. I wonder, is this the one?

Not everyone embraced the idea of setting aside a block of Sabbath
time every week – a minority said their families weren’t overscheduled
all the time and didn’t necessarily need a weekly respite. They
didn’t seem to buy in to the idea of Sabbath as a time of rest and a
religious practice, not just the former. That may be due to my
limitations as a moderator, not the text.

I doubt it was him…

As I go around talking to groups, I meet folks who don’t struggle for Sabbath the way many of us do. They often don’t see a need because their lives have a natural balance of work and play (what’s their secret?).

But I also meet people who seem to love their jobs so much that they literally work every day. A pastor of a large church admitted to me recently that he hasn’t had a regular day off in several years. Vacations, yes, but not days off. And I met an imam several weeks ago who shared that Islam does not have a provision for the Sabbath like Judaism and Christianity do. In fact, he admitted he has not taken a vacation in three decades. I was astounded in both cases, but in talking to him it was clear that he was deeply committed to his work. Neither is on the verge of burnout. Both are functioning well in their jobs. Both seem to be perfectly healthy psychologically.

you-must-fall-in-love-with-your-work1And last night Robert and I watched Jiro Dreams of Sushi. (BTW: what sumptuous, simple pieces of sushi. Trip to Japan, anyone?) Here is a guy who’s 85 years old and who still pushes himself (and his apprentices) to new heights in the craft. He hates it when he’s not working. He only takes a day off when he has to. And as the title implies, when he’s not working, he’s thinking about work. Yet he’s kept this pace for 75 years (yes, he started young).

What makes the difference? Are people like that just wired differently? Or have they found such a perfect intersection between their deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger (thank you Buechner) that rest is not needed?

What do you think?

 

Friday Link Love: Maurice Sendak, Bracket Madness, and What, Me Worry?

Bit of a weird assortment this week. Lots of links related to women and gender issues, probably because I’m still pondering Lean In, the Steubenville verdict, and the connections between them.

But first: March Madness! That’s right:

Public Radio Bracket Madness! — Poll

As I’m putting this post together on Thursday morning, they’re accepting votes for the sweet 16. Some are a slam dunk: Radiolab beats Morning Edition—sorry Steve Inskeep. Some are impossible: Fresh Air v. Prairie Home Companion? What if you find them equally irritating?

Speaking of NPR, Radiolab’s Speed episode was excellent as usual, and my kids and I continue to monitor the pitch drop experiment. Any week/month/year now…

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NEXT Church — Liturgy, Music and More

I’m humbled to be the co-chair of NEXT Church for the next two years. NEXT is a conversation within the Presbyterian Church that’s seeking to find areas of health and innovation in the church so they can be nurtured and propagated. You can access the music, liturgy and “ribbon ritual” we did at the conference from our resources page. Or watch the presentations here. And here’s our video. You might recognize a familiar voice:

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Imagine a World without Hate — Anti-Defamation League (via Upworthy)

This 1-minute video was spammed widely on Facebook this week. But in case you scrolled by without watching, as I did repeatedly—stop now and click the link above. It’s powerful.

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Five Questions Every Woman Should Ask Herself — Positively Positive

This came from a Facebook friend:

The big question remains: Can women really “have it all?” I tend to categorize myself in the “something’s got to give” camp—multi-tasking and juggling can take us just so far.

…It seems like we are feeling more exhausted and guilty than ever before because we are constantly reaching for the unreachable. And research seems to back this idea. Studies show that women today are less happy relative to where they were forty years ago and relative to men.

So, where do we go from here? The answer may be in the way we are defining a fulfilling life or “having it all.”

I could write about this tension between ambition and balance for the rest of my life. Suffice to say that there’s a reason that this E.B. White quote is so beloved to me:

If the world were merely seductive, that would be easy. If it were merely challenging, that would be no problem. But I arise in the morning torn between a desire to improve the world and a desire to enjoy the world. This makes it hard to plan the day.

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Choosing to Stay Home — Andrew Sullivan, The Dish

Sully’s had a lot of discussion lately on gender differences, work-life balance, wives taking their husbands’ names, etc. Was especially interested in this graph in this post:

work-week-by-sex

Women are doing more child care than they were in the 1960s, even though their work outside the home has almost tripled. ??

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How Not To Worry: A 1934 Guide to Mastering Life — Brain Pickings

How can you not love a book called You Can Master Life? Adorable. Anyway:

Gilkey [the author] cites a “Worry Table” created by one of the era’s humorists — most likely Mark Twain, who is often quoted, though never with a specific source, as having said, “I’ve had a lot of worries in my life, most of which never happened.” The table was designed to distinguish between justified and unjustified worries:

On studying his chronic fears this man found they fell into five fairly distinct classifications:

  1. Worries about disasters which, as later events proved, never happened. About 40% of my anxieties.
  2. Worries about decisions I had made in the past, decisions about which I could now of course do nothing. About 30% of my anxieties.
  3. Worries about possible sickness and a possible nervous breakdown, neither of which materialized. About 12% of my worries.
  4. Worries about my children and my friends, worries arising from the fact I forgot these people have an ordinary amount of common sense. About 10% of my worries.
  5. Worries that have a real foundation. Possibly 8% of the total.

Gilkey then prescribes:

What, of this man, is the first step in the conquest of anxiety? It is to limit his worrying to the few perils in his fifth group. This simple act will eliminate 92% of his fears. Or, to figure the matter differently, it will leave him free from worry 92% of the time.

Unfortunately Gilkey doesn’t understand that worry abhors a vacuum. Eliminating 1-4 will mean that we worry the same amount, just with greater focus… ;-)

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When Do Good Deeds Lead to More Good Deeds? — Science and Religion Today

Sometimes good deeds make us feel good, so we do more. Other times we feel we’ve “done our share” so the good deed excuses us from goodness the next time. A brief discussion about the current research on this topic, which is scant, unfortunately.

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“We Are Inseparable!”: On Maurice Sendak’s Last Book — New Yorker

Blake-233Sendak continues to fascinate, even after his death:

Sendak made this book for those adults who had grown up with his stories.

This is a melancholy thought. In dedicating this last story to us, his once-children readers, he is marking the passage of time in our lives. He’s dated us. When I pick up this new book, I am reminded, as if I needed to be reminded, that I am no longer the ferocious, hyper-absorbed, small wonder of a Sendak reader I once was—nor, I’m guessing, are you. Had Sendak created another “Where the Wild Things Are” for us, would we even be able to appreciate it? For us obsolete children, as Theodor Geisel dubbed adults, it would be beside the point.

What makes this last book special is that Sendak is willing to meet his former-children readers where they are now in their lives—on the condition that they meet him where he was at the end of his. Kushner told me that he saw Sendak, toward the end of his life, eyes dimmed, hunched over his studio desk, pressing his face so close to the drafts that his dear nose was almost touching them. For his devoted readers, this tender proximity—this intimacy—may be the most affecting part of “My Brother’s Book.” The supple details are Sendak’s way of physically drawing us in, closer and closer, until we tap the page with our own noses: one last kiss goodnight.

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And finally, some perspective. This was posted to Facebook this week:

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I’m in Massachusetts until tomorrow, officiating a wedding for a high school friend. Congrats to D and D! (Hey, that’s handy for monogramming…)

How Men Can Help Women Lean In

urlI wrote a post Friday afternoon about Sheryl Sandberg’s new book Lean In and said in part:

There is still a tremendous gender gap in ministry. By and large, women are the associate pastors and solo pastors. Men are the tall-steeple preachers. (Men of my generation are very sad about this, and they lament it—sincerely, I believe—but will gladly move into those prestigious and well-paying positions even as they tilt their heads sympathetically and decry the patriarchy.)

My friend Andrew Taylor-Troutman commented on Facebook:

I appreciate (and am convicted by) your point about men lamenting sexism while benefitting from it. As an ally, I wonder what the image for privilege would be. Leaning back? Or, as you point out, support is key. Leaning in together? Lean, mean fighting machine?

If my comment convicted him, then his sincere question convicted me: What would I ask of my brothers who are in positions of influence and privilege? That is an excellent question. Here are the first things that come to mind:

Don’t be a jerk. I guess that’s not very useful advice, because jerks either don’t know or don’t care that they are. But basic kindness and empathy go a long way. If you see a woman “leaning in,” don’t push her over. But don’t hover around, ready to catch her if she falls either. That’s annoying. And patronizing.

Name it when you see it. That thing where a woman makes a suggestion and it gets ignored, and then a man suggests it and people fall over themselves to praise it? It’s happened to me. It’s happened to virtually every woman I know. It’s nice when women aren’t the ones to point it out.

Advocate for decent parental leave, even if you don’t need it. Maybe you aren’t planning to have kids, or maybe your kids are grown. All the more reason for you to get into the game—it’s not personal. When I was pregnant with my second child, I helped the church I was serving put together a good parental leave policy, which they didn’t have. They were great about it. There was not a lot of pushback. Even so, it’s an awkward process. Help a gal out.

Cut the macho stuff. If you are eligible for parental leave and the situation arises, take it. See also: vacation, study leave and for heaven’s sake, days off!

Recommend us for stuff, and mean it. I’m not looking to move into a new call, but I appreciate that people put my name in for pastoral positions that open up. And don’t give up just because it’s not the right time. Someday it could be. (Don’t freak out, Tiny Church. I ain’t going anywhere.)

What have I missed?

Can Sabbath Be Productive?

woman-running221Play is a key component of Sabbath, it seems to me. Especially play for its own sake—“play without purpose.” But what does it mean for something to be purposeless?

People sometimes ask me whether certain activities are acceptable for Sabbath because they accomplish something useful. Weeding the garden, for example, changes one’s environment. It’s work. It’s something a gardener has to do even if she isn’t seeking Sabbath.

I always start by saying, What am I, the Sabbath police?

But it’s a good question, and one I think about too.

I waffle on whether running is a Sabbath activity. It’s fun (sometimes); it’s playful (in its own way). It’s spiritual time for me, to be sure. And it’s a wholesome activity. But it’s a tremendous expenditure of energy. Right now I’m training for a half marathon, and I have to run if I’m going to pull that off. Exercise in general is non-negotiable at this stage of my life, like eating and sleeping and brushing one’s teeth.

Have to doesn’t seem very Sabbathy to me.

This article by Mark Rowland helps tease this stuff out. The idea of a “second childhood” doesn’t resonate with me, but I appreciate the way he approaches categories of work and play.

Today’s world is a deeply utilitarian one, where everything must have a use or be ‘good for something’. Our lives are dominated by work and, unless we have been extraordinarily lucky, we work not because we particularly enjoy it but to get paid — payment that keeps us and our loved ones alive for a while and, if there is anything left over, allows us to do something more interesting than the work. Our lives are spent, largely, doing one thing for the sake of something else, which is in turn done for something else.

This is a kind of instrumental thinking. Something has instrumental value if its worth lies not in itself but in something else that it can get you.

He contrasts these instrumental activities of our lives (in which A produces B) with intrinsic ones, in which A may produce B, yet we do it for the sheer pleasure of it. Maybe that’s the key to what makes something a Sabbath experience. It’s pretty simple: does it feel like Sabbath to you? Does it somehow honor God, however you understand God? Does it simultaneously take you out of yourself and connect you to your truest self?

Mark Rowland describes it thus:

There comes a point during a long run, perhaps at the limits of my endurance, when I am no longer running for any reason other than to run. There comes a point in karate — perhaps when I am in the middle of a kata, and each movement flows thoughtlessly and seamlessly into the next — when I am no longer acting for reasons, but acting without them. There is a point in tennis, when I thrust aside as irrelevant all thoughts of point and games and sets, and am absorbed instead in the sheer and savage delight of swinging at a moving target. These are all moments when the endless round of doing one thing for the sake of another comes to an end — however briefly. In these moments, I am acquainted with what is worth doing for its own sake. In these moments, I experience intrinsic value in my life.

What do you think?

Friday Link Love: Nude Dancers, Suburban Living, and the Empathic Rat

First, a link to my article at catapult magazine for their 10 Things edition: 10 Ways to Savor Your Time in 2013.

Annnnnd…. away we go:

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Time-Lapse Images of Nude Dancers Created with 10,000 Individual Photographs — Colossal

Obligatory Colossal Post. Lots more at the link:

nude_8

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Five Easy Things to a Happier Year — National Catholic Review

I’m keeping it light on the New Year’s resolutions/intentions this year. I’m already running a half marathon, promoting a book and planning the next one—that’s plenty to keep me busy. Plus I’m all about the improv and less about the major planning. But I can get behind these:

Be a Little Kinder.  I think that 90% of the spiritual life is being a kind person.   No need to have any advanced degrees in theology or moral reasoning, and no need to have an encyclopedic knowledge of the world’s religious traditions, to get this: Be gentler and more compassionate towards other people.

I like the one about enjoying nature more. Reminds me of one of my father-in-law’s practices. When he comes home from work, he takes a moment between car and house to look up. Just to see what the sky looks like. I love that.

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Why Do Americans Have Less Vacation Time Than Anyone Else? — Big Think

This one gets in my craw. It’s not the most pressing issue we face, but it is a justice issue and a spiritual issue:

Like many of you, I am on vacation this week. For most Americans, Christmas week represents about half of the time off we will enjoy all year long. Compared with Australians (at least 4 weeks off, plus 10 public holidays), Brazilians (22 days of paid leave with a 33 percent salary vacation bonus) and the French (at least 5 weeks off and as many as 9 for many public employees), we are seriously bereft.

Look at how the United States stacks up against the rest of the developed world in number of mandatory days off each year:

Screen_Shot_2012-12-23_at_10.02.37_AM

What is that all about, do you think?

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How People Live in the Suburbs: A Vintage Illustrated Gem — Brain Pickings

How People Live In The Suburbs was published as part of a Basic Understanding series of primary school supplements, also including How People Earn and Use MoneyHow Farms Help Us, and How Our Government Helps Us — all, sadly, out of print but delightful if you’re able to secure a copy.

Click the link above for more images. These are just cute and bizarre:

B0006CK9FS

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The Five Types of Work That Fill Your Day — 99U

I’m still using Toggl to keep track of how much time I spend on creative work, connecting with people, and doing logistics. Read more about that process here.

But based on this article it would be interesting to do an audit of my time to see how much of my day is spent on Reactionary, Planning, Procedural, Insecurity, and Problem-solving tasks. Good tips here for how to bring things into a frutful balance for your situation.

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The Power and the Allegory: A Book of Interviews with Madeleine L’Engle — BookForum

The book itself is called Listening for Madeleine. From the BookForum article:

L’Engle’s faith was deeply untraditional. A mathematics professor who advised her on A Wrinkle in Time says the three beings who guide Meg on her interplanetary journey—Mrs Whatsit, Mrs Who, and Mrs Which—were meant to be angels, but they could just as easily be mistaken for witches. And the novel’s dominant image of evil is an undefined blackness that casts its shadow across a wide band of the universe, including Earth. Camazotz, a planet controlled by the blackness, is not a hotbed of violence and depravity but a vision of perfect order. All the houses are identical, the children bounce their balls in perfect unison, and anyone who refuses to submit to the program is punished. “I am freedom from all responsibility,” the evil power croons to Meg. But she recognizes that this is a false consolation, a substitution of conformity for equality. “Like and equal are not the same thing at all!” she screams.

The fundamental lesson is that it’s OK—even desirable—to be a misfit.

Looking back, I’d say that A Wrinkle in Time formed my early theology as much as (or let’s be honest, more than) the Bible.

Incidentally, I’m putting this post together on Thursday, and Caroline is in the chair next to me with the new graphic novel version of A Wrinkle in Time. I gave it to her for Christmas and she’s already on her second reading of it.

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A New Model of Empathy: The Rat — Washington Post

I expect there is more of this going on in the animal kingdom than we want to admit:

In a simple experiment, researchers at the University of Chicago sought to find out whether a rat would release a fellow rat from an unpleasantly restrictive cage if it could. The answer was yes.

The free rat, occasionally hearing distress calls from its compatriot, learned to open the cage and did so with greater efficiency over time. It would release the other animal even if there wasn’t the payoff of a reunion with it. Astonishingly, if given access to a small hoard of chocolate chips, the free rat would usually save at least one treat for the captive — which is a lot to expect of a rat.

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May your weekend be filled with a small hoard of chocolate chips… or whatever delights you.