A Bodey in Motion

Building momentum, one step at a time

Small Cups and Broad Saucers

From Thou Shall Prosper by Rabbi Daniel Lapin:

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As the Sabbath ebbs away each Saturday night, Jewish families prepare for the productive work week ahead by singing the joyful Havdalah service […] recited over a cup of wine that runs over into the saucer beneath.

This overflowing cup symbolizes the intention to produce during the week ahead not only sufficient to fill one’s own cup, but also an excess that will allow overflow for the benefit of others. In other words, I am obliged to first fill my cup and then continue pouring as it were, so that I will have sufficient to give away to others, thus helping to jump-start their own efforts.

I absolutely love this symbolism. It’s a simple act that speaks volumes about work ethic and generosity.

Work is a blessing. Our ability to work, our talents and the skills we develop, the wages we earn and everything that stems from them, are all thanks to God. To extend the symbolism, the wine is delivered to us by the wine-maker. Honestly, he gives us more than we need. It’s available to us, and all we have to do is exercise obedience and pour it all out. We’re blessed with work so that others can receive from our overflow. How can we do anything but follow through?

How can we, indeed.

We still manage to screw it up, don’t we? I know I’ve failed at it in a couple of big ways.

One way are those times when my work ethic isn’t anywhere near up to where it should be. I’ll pour out just enough to eke by. I can come up with all sorts of excuses for it, but the actual reason is always the same. I’m being lazy and irresponsible with my time. I don’t exercise discipline, and instead I suffer regret. That’s ugly.

The other big way that I, and a lot of people, have failed is something I’m going to refer to as poor “cup management.” See, when more wine is presented to us, we have a tendency to head to our cabinets and break out a larger cup. As our income grows, we’ll increase our expenses.

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Before we know it, we’re bathing in wine while our overflow hasn’t grown at all. Or worse, our “cup” gets so large that there isn’t enough wine to spill over anymore. Then we find ourselves struggling with the deficit, and we have to deal with growing debt, and no one is blessed.


Each one of us needs to take a long, hard look at our cup.

I’m not saying we need to neglect our family to help others. I would never say that. No, we need to know exactly what is needed to care and provide for our family. We need to know what is required to feed them and clothe them and provide shelter for them. We have to keep our eyes and ears open for the things that will help them grow into the men and women that they’re supposed to become. We’re required to understand that all of those things come at a cost, in both time and money, and know those costs well. If we don’t, then that’s just another variation of poor cup management.

But, after honestly evaluating your needs, then it’s time to examine your generosity and what it says about your trust in the wine-maker. How broad, and how deep is your saucer, and how glad are you to be filling it?

So, I’m issuing myself these three challenges. You might consider them, too.

1. Have a smaller cup. My family will craft and keep a monthly budget. While accounting for each dollar, my wife and I will have the chance to evaluate the value that each expenditure brings to our family. What needs to change? What costs too much? What can be cut?

2. Have a broader saucer. We’ll find at least one new opportunity to be generous every month. Opening my eyes and seeing the needs of others has to become involuntary for me. Meeting those needs out of my familiy’s overflow is why it’s there.

3. Have faith. We’ll give away more than we think we’re able to. Giving should be a sacrificial act that reflects your trust in  God. Are we giving enough that he has to be present in our lives? In Proverbs it says…

Two things I ask of you; deny them not to me before I die:
Remove far from me falsehood and lying;
give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me,
lest I be full and deny you and say, “Who is the LORD?”
or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God.

Proverbs 30:7-9

We should never find ourselves so full that we’re questioning the presence of God.

So, what about your cup? Are you managing it well? Does it allow you to fill your saucer?

January 30, 2012 Posted by | Christ and Church, Work and Money | , , , , | 2 Comments

Quick Hits of the Week

  • Speaking of change, education has been taking a beating lately. See, the current model that American schools use to educate children has its roots in our Industrial Age, when universal education was implemented. The problem is that the overall structure hasn’t changed much, but we’re in the Information Age now. So, Seth Godin wants to know if we’re going to continue to applaud schools that churn out mediocre factory workers? Rethan Salam reports about how some are working to prepare children for life in this era, by embracing the novel ideas of more personal responsibility, and that everyone has something to teach. While over at Khan Academy, they’re actually doing something amazing and innovative in education. The only way the next decade doesn’t result in an amazing change in education is if we’re scared out of it.
  • Another area where change has been slowly creeping up on the world is the War on Drugs. I’ve read some about Richard Branson recently, and I am impressed with his sense of vision and his love for innovation. So, it was no surprise to me when he wrote that it was time to end the international war on drugs.
  • An area where our drug war has been a massive failure is how it has turned our everyday policemen into pseudo-soldiers. Head over and take this quiz that Radley Balko put together, see if you can tell the difference: Cop or Soldier?
  • While you’re playing guessing games, try your hand at this one: Professor or Hobo? I think this puts a nice bow on today’s Quick Hits. Come back and tell me how you did.

January 26, 2012 Posted by | Quick Hits and Links | , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Quick Hits of the Week

Glad to be working or working to be glad?

Do me a favor and read the following quote from Frederick Buechner‘s The Hungering Dark. It’s a bit wordy, but I think it’s worth it. I’ll share my thoughts with you in a moment.

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To Isaiah, the voice said, “Go,” and for each of us there are many voices that say it, but the question is which one will we obey with our lives, which of the voices that call is to be the one that we answer. No one can say, of course, except each for himself, but I believe that it is possible to say at least this in general to all of us: we should go with our lives where we most need to go and where we are most needed.

Where we most need to go. Maybe that means that the voice we should listen to most as we choose a vocation is the voice that we might think we should listen to least, and that is the voice of our own gladness. What can we do that makes us gladdest, what can we do that leaves us with the strongest sense of sailing true north and of peace, which is much of what gladness is? Is it making things with our hands out of wood or stone or paint on canvas? Or is it making something we hope like truth out of words? Or is it making people laugh or weep in a way that cleanses their spirits? I believe that if it is a thing that makes us truly glad, then it is a good thing and it is our thing and it is the calling voice that we were made to answer with our lives.

And also, where we are most needed. In a world where there is so much drudgery, so much grief, so much emptiness and fear and pain, our gladness in our work is as much needed as we ourselves need to be glad. If we keep our eyes and ears open, our hearts open, we will find the place surely. The phone will ring and we will jump not so much out of our skin as into our skin. If we keep our lives open, the right place will find us.

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For many of us the words work and ministry don’t occupy the same space. They are fundamentally different.

We go to work because we need to provide for a living. Pay is a critical factor. It allows us to have a place to live, put food on our tables, save and grow wealthy. Work is for profit.

We do ministry because we want to grow spiritually. Fulfillment is a critical factor. It allows us to help those in need, give of ourselves, serve and show mercy. Ministry gives us purpose.

Unless you’re a pastor or missionary, those two don’t usually overlap. If we claim to find purpose in our work, then our culture calls us a ‘workaholic’ and counsels us on having balance. And if we’re involved in a ministry, mentioning the word profit is almost dirty.

But Buechner doesn’t say that at all. In fact, he says just the opposite, doesn’t he? He says, “What can we do that makes us gladdest?” In other words, what career will bring us the most joy?

Joy is the dividing hedge, isn’t it? Because making money is work, having money is fun, and giving money is joy, right? So, the thought of making money and experiencing joy seems wrong to us. It’s on the wrong side of the wall. Even for those of us who are doing it, they say things like, “I can’t believe they’re paying me to do this.”

If you’re one of those people, revel in it. Our joy in our work is needed. You are serving and helping those around you while you get to put food on your table. That is a huge blessing. Don’t miss it.

If you’re not one of those people, it’s time to figure out why. And, I’ll confess something here, I’m one of you. Over a decade ago I wandered into my career. I thought it made me successful, but now I know my measure of success was wrong. I was listening to the wrong voice. Today, that’s changed.

What voice are you listening to? Are you working to be glad, or just glad to be working?

January 23, 2012 Posted by | Past and Future, Work and Money | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Quick Hits of the Week

  • When economic times are tough, the people we elect as leaders should work to encourage enterprise. Every law or rule should be reviewed and the ones that limit entrepreneurial activity should be removed, or at least deferred. The last thing a local government should be doing is adding more legislation and requiring more permits. It happens all too often. We, as the governed, should be very careful in how we allow our leaders to stifle business activity. Those burdens often land hardest on the poorest among us.
  • It’s been said that English “mugs other languages in dark alleys and rifles their pockets for loose vocabulary.” Here are fourteen words that might be next, if they’re not careful.
  • Apparently, adding a calorie count to menu items doesn’t automatically change people’s eating habits. It isn’t a bad thing that people exercise their freedom to live and eat how they choose. See, we’re not truly free unless we’re free to be wrong (and to endure the consequences). However, that doesn’t negate the benefit of more transparency. In this case, it really is in a restaurants’ best interest that their customers be informed about the dishes they’re offered.
  • Speaking of customer service, it appears that some South Carolina lawmakers have forgotten that state agencies are in the business of serving people, too. Honestly, some of our elected leaders will make anything into political fodder for the sake of a headline.

January 19, 2012 Posted by | Quick Hits and Links | , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Quick Hits of the Week