Monday, May 24, 2010

Quote of the Week

"It's natural and healthy to hope for ourselves, but it's provincial and unhealthy to hope only for ourselves. Egocentric persons curve in on themselves. With only their own interests at heart, and only their own futures in view, they eventually harden themselves into a small, snail-like shell... But the person who keeps her head up so that she can look out toward the future of others - this is a person with some range to her hope. This is a person who has been enlarged by the Holy Spirit."

Cornelius Plantinga, Engaging God's World, p.12

Sunday, May 16, 2010

How Do You Handle the Poison Cup?

Just finished reading an interesting article from Vincent Bacote on what he calls the "poison cup". The poison cup is what happens when ambition meets with fame or recognition. Bacote's article is based on the recent announcement that renown preacher John Piper, is stepping down for a period of time in order to address "several species" of pride in his life, stepping away from "the poisonous cup of international fame and notoriety".

Bacote explores the question of ambition, fame and pride by asking this soul penetrating question -

"What is it about the pursuit of our ambition, our legitimate and godly desires for success in vocation, that can become poisonous when it meets that admiration and recognition of others?"

It's a difficult but necessary question to ponder and answer, even if you never become as famous as John Piper. All of us, in our respective spheres of influence, can be tempted to thrive on fame and recognition. We can find greater delight in the praise of our clients, coworkers and the CEO than in the praise of God. We can breath in the rarefied air of recognition for "a job well done" or being viewed as "indispensable". Perhaps in a far less dramatic way, we are all susceptible to the "poisonous cup".

Assuming most of us cannot simply take a leave of absence from our work, what can we do about this? How do we crucify our love for the "praise of men" and cultivate true humility?

No absolute answers but here's a thought - we ought to hold lightly to any honor we may receive - whether it comes by way of our position, wealth or ability. In fact, Proverbs soberly reminds us that praise from others is a test of our soul -

The crucible for silver and the furnace for gold, but man is tested by the praise he receives.
Proverbs 27:21

We can also aim for something better. While many have faltered by taking sips of the poisonous cup, John Piper and other godly men show us how to deal with the poison cup of praise and fame. You have to deal with it radically. You make the changes you need to, even if it means taking a leave of absence. You take radical steps when you realize that fame, notoriety and praise of men pale in comparison to hearing your Father say "well done, good and faithful servant". One of the chief ways we battle our unhealthy desire for recognition is by seeking recognition from the One whose praise is ultimately valued. We can refrain from feeding on the praise of men by seeking praise from God.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Quote of the Week

"The fact that earth is not our ultimate home explains why we experience difficulty, sorrow, and rejection in this world. It also explains why some of God’s promises seem unfulfilled, some prayers seem unanswered, and some circumstances seem unfair. This is not the end of the story."

Rick Warren, What On Earth Am I Here For? p. 45

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Motherhood - Integrating Faith and Work

Even in Christian circles, most discussions about work and faith tend to focus on our work as "professionals" - teacher, scientist, businessman, social worker, software developer,etc... When we limit our discussion to the realm of our professional career, we miss out on much of the work we do in our other roles as neighbor, father, daughter, citizen... and mothers.

On Mother's Day, the honor we lavish on mothers for the faithful love and nurturing of their families is absolutely appropriate. However, we sometimes overlook the sheer hard work, mothers put into the glorious call of mothering. In fact, the oft-quoted Proverbs 31 calls attention to the faithful, labor of the exemplary wife and mother. It's not just the finer attributes of her character that are admired but also her industry and initiative -

She seeks wool and flax and works with willing hands. v. 13
She rises while it is yet night and provides food for her household.... v. 15
She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. v. 27

This excellent woman is also commended for what can best be described as an entrepreneurial spirit, coupling it with the willingness to work hard.

She considers a field and buys it; with the fruit of her hands, she plants a vineyard. v. 16
She perceives that her merchandise is profitable. Her lamp does not go out at night. v. 18
She makes linen garments and sells them; she delivers sashes to the merchants. v. 24

I can't help but think of how this spirit of willing labor and creative initiative is evident in the mothers around me. My own mother was extremely hard working, always laboring to make a better life for her family. And now, I see similar traits of selfless service in my wife who seems to always put the needs of everyone in the family above her own. The work of mothers is typically not the focus of books written about Christian perspectives on work. Unfortunately, this kind of labor is often assumed and seldom appreciated - but it is exactly the kind of labor that exemplifies well the intersection of faith and work. It is the kind of work that God honors and rewards - not just on Mother's Day, but everyday.