overworked people in business meeting

The Murderous Workplace | Spiritual Meditations

How many work hours do you put in every week? According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics the average American works 44 hours per week. A Gallop poll puts the average at 47 to 50 hours per week and a Bloomberg Businessweek report indicates that some factory workers put in 12 hours a day for 6 to 7 days a week. After a work schedule like that who’s going to make a healthy meal or work out?  And that kind of life isn’t necessary if you are One with God.

Overworking Your System

John Ross, MD, FIDSA in the Harvard Health Publishing reports that

In most developed countries, overwork is not seen as a public health problem. However, death from overwork is common enough in Japan that there is a word for it: karōshi. Japanese corporate workers, or salarymen, have a tradition of lifelong job security. Unfortunately, for them, the tradeoff is that they are expected to log long hours of unpaid overtime… In China, death from overwork, known there as guolaosi, is also said to be widespread.

Researchers from University College London compiled data on the relationship between working hours and heart attack risk in over 600,000 workers, as well as similar data on stroke risk in over 500,000 workers. … They found that those who worked more than 55 hours per week had a 13% greater risk of a heart attack, and were 33% more likely to suffer a stroke, compared with those who worked 35-40 hours per week.

Overwork also can result in sleep deprivation, which can result in a host of problems: obesity, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. It also inhibits our ability to think and remember. If you think you can function with minimal shut-eye, The Wall Street Journal reports that for every 100 people who think they are a member of the “sleepless elite,” only 5 really are. Only 1–3% of people can actually function on five or six hours of sleep a night without their performance suffering.

In her blog, Lindsay Kolowich relates that,

In 2015, the Finnish Institute of Occupational Health published the largest ever study of the correlation between working patterns and alcohol consumption. In the study, a group of researchers put together a dataset of over 330,000 workers across 14 different countries. They found that …when people worked more than 48 hours per week, they were more likely to engage in “increased risky alcohol use.” Risky alcohol use was defined as more than 14 drinks per week for women and more than 21 drinks per week for men.

Who’s Killing You?

Some employers require long hours from their salaried employees; however, in some organizations the culture promotes a philosophy that extra hours facilitate promotion. The culture says that those who are always connected (via email, text or phone) impress their superiors. Those who take a company laptop with them on vacation prioritize the company above all else and make themselves indispensable. Sound familiar?

It takes an emotionally strong individual to walk out the door at 5:00, but that individual is or will be the more physically and mentally strong by doing so.

Can you identify with any of the above or does it sound like anyone you know? How do we escape from a life overrun with work and the accompanying illness? If you are in this situation, and know how to escape from it, I’m going to assume that you are already taking steps to resolve it. If you have not made the great escape, I’m going to suggest that your ability to do so, or your ability to at least reduce the pain, correlates to where you are on your faith journey.

Meditation is a Weapon

Solitude, meditation and prayer are going to give you stress relief to the extent that you use them.

Andrew Newberg, an expert in neurotheology states on Tonic that:

Despite a dose of healthy skepticism, it’s hard to ignore the growing body of research dedicated to the neural correlates and potential benefits of these practices [prayer], including non-Christian ones, like mindfulness and meditation. Dozens of studies have found changes before and after prayer or meditative activities in the autonomic nervous system, which controls relaxation and arousal, [and] in parasympathetic activity, which can decrease heart rate and blood pressure, metabolism, or respiration.

You may be exhausted, but fit in some meditation wherever you can; lunch breaks, after work, when the kids are asleep or early in the morning. Once you become proficient at blocking out the surrounding noise, you may even be able to meditate while on the train or bus. Talking to God can be done anywhere at any time. Make God a part of your everyday life and you will gradually recognize that He is active in your everyday life.

Lessons From the Truly Connected

For the truly God-connected individuals, (who know, trust and love God) big decisions are often urged by God, and He helps smooth the pathway. Just listen for His Spirit; your Inner Being.

Here is how Dr Wayne W Dyer explained his work transition.

When I left the work that no longer inspired me, every single detail that I’d worried about was almost magically taken care of for me. I’d spent several months working for a large corporation where I was offered a salary three times higher than I’d been paid as a teacher, but I wasn’t in spirit. That prodding inner knowing said, What are you here to do, and teaching/counseling became my manifested daily purpose…I suggest that there is no risk at all if you pay attention to that light…Combine your strong knowing with the faith the Spirit.

In the book Experiencing God, the authors relate the story of a doctor they met.

As a college student, he had felt God calling him to be a medical missionary. He attended medical school…[and] became an expert in the study of immune diseases and was invited to join the staff of a prestigious hospital. For several years he worked at the hospital…but during the conference at which he and I met, God convicted him that he had neglected to obey his call to missions. Now, well established in his career, and supporting a family, he wondered if it was too late….I advised the doctor to spend time with God and ask Him to clarify exactly what He wanted him to do at this stage in his life. Later I heard that the physician had resigned his prestigious position and had become a missionary in Africa in an area ravaged by AIDS.

Seek First the Kingdom

Besides prayer and meditation, how do we develop the kind of connection with God that makes us comfortable with taking the first step in making major life changes? The answer that we find in scripture is ‘seek first the kingdom,’ and all else, including material needs, will be met.  This is the Kingdom within you, developed through regular meditation on spiritual phrases followed by being in a attitude of listening to the Spirit.  Not thinking.

What we should be seeking is not increased dollars or improved health, as desirable as these are, but rebirth, an entrance into a state of consciousness, which is God’s kingdom, and not of this world.

From our earliest years, the desirability of being a go-getter, having a strong personality, being dynamic, knowing what we want and going after it, and the importance of getting, achieving, and accomplishing have been impressed upon us… Whenever, we have pushed or elbowed someone aside mentally or physically, or reached out for that which is rightfully someone else’s, in that degree we have also violated spiritual law.

Even that for which we have legally and legitimately struggled, was sometimes the very thing that destroys us because in as much as we are infinite, and according to the teachings of the Master [Jesus], have within us, all that the Father has, any attempt to add to that infinity is in itself a violation of the law of God…Instead of starting out in life with the idea of gaining, getting or achieving we would reverse that and our attitude would be one of serving, giving, bestowing, sharing and co-operating…In such a state of consciousness, our good [prosperity] on the human plane would be the reflex action of our giving and sharing. [italics mine]

Every time we believe that there is something or somebody to be gained or won–some name, some fame, some fortune–we are at that very moment in violation of the spiritual principle of life which is givingness.   from The Thunder of Silence by Joel S Goldsmith

Conclusion

If you find yourself, or someone you know, struggling to keep life on track, as a result of too many work hours, take a close look at the cause. Who is making the decision to put in all those hours? Are you succumbing to the culture of your work environment? Is it your boss or are you motivated by material things? God is always there to listen, no matter where you are. Can you whittle out a few moments to meditate, decompress and open yourself to hearing the still small voice of God, your Inner Being, guiding you? If you can, your future will be more peaceful and satisfying for it. Give it a try and contact me with the results. I would love to hear about your experience.

Relevant Scripture

Psalm 127:2
It is senseless for you to work so hard from early morning until late at night, fearing you will starve to death; for God wants his loved ones to get their proper rest.

Proverbs 10:22
The Lord’s blessing is our greatest wealth. All our work adds nothing to it!

Psalms 37:4
Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart.

Matthew 6:25-33 New Revised Standard Version (NRSV)
Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And can any of you, by worrying, add a single hour to your span of life? And why do you worry about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not clothed like one of these. 30 But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith? Therefore, do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

cross crown sky clouds metaphor for Soul Ascend

God’s Touch and A Soul Ascended | Spiritual Meditations

It seems that when someone we care about dies, we often regret something we said, or didn’t say, something we did or didn’t do.  We think we could have done more to make their life, or their end-of-life, better.  Guilt can sometimes be overwhelming.  How fortunate, that the greater our connection with God, the greater is His support of us during those times.  My friend, Tim, is going to tell you about an experience he had, as a young chaplain, that involves healing, the presence of God and his afterlife connection with a cancer patient.

The following was written by Rev. Dr. Tim Ehrlich

Context

As a first semester seminarian at Duke I was hired as Student Associate Pastor of Trinity Avenue Presbyterian Church. I loved working at Trinity Avenue for my boss Rev. Doctor Bennett, but after two years at Trinity I quit to take care of my newborn baby son Shaun and to enroll in the CPE (Clinical Pastoral Education) program at Duke Medical Center. CPE required 35 hours a week and counted as two elective classes towards graduation from the Divinity School. My acceptance into the program made me a chaplain intern at Duke Hospital. As such I was assigned to an area that required a lot of pastoral care: the burn and amputation unit. I also rotated as Chaplain on call once every 10 days, which required me to stay at the hospital for 24 hours during my rotation.

The burn & amputation unit was a regional burn unit so it was busy with patients from all over the state. My job was to do pastoral visits with those who requested pastoral visits and with those whom the nursing staff had identified as most in need. Usually I visited everyone about to have an amputation and everyone who was having complications following their amputation. I also visited those who had been burned badly enough to require hospitalization.

I saw some very sad cases, people who had to have multiple amputations, or repeated amputations on the same limb, industrial accidents, and terrible burn cases. I visited with and tried to bring hope and light to people in the darkest depths of depression, and I visited with others facing similar circumstances, who were so filled with the joy and love of the Lord that they ministered to me instead of the other way around.

A Special Cancer Patient

As the Chaplain On Call for the thousand bed hospital I was given a pager and had to respond to every code blue (person is dying) situation, to provide immediate pastoral support to the family, if any. I also had to respond to pastoral assignment given by any staff doctor. One day when I was on call, I was paged by a doctor to visit with a young man who was very sick with cancer and had just been told he had a very short time to live – a month or so at most. His name was Patrick, I really liked him and felt so sorry for him because he was a really nice guy, a Christian, happily married and had an 8 year old daughter, and he was about to leave them without a husband and daddy.

Healing Hands

Having had the experience of seeing people I had prayed for miraculously healed, I asked him if I could hold my hands over him and pray for his healing and he said ‘yes’. This became a daily thing: at some point during my daily time at work I would stop by his room and do this laying on of hands and pray. There was no huge miraculous response, but each time I prayed he seemed a little better: he seemed a little stronger and certainly it lifted his spirits. His month stretched out into two months. I truly felt like I was in a battle with his cancer, my prayers would lift him up during the week, but I was gone over the weekends, and cancer would tear him down such that by Mondays he was back to where he was at the beginning of the week. So it was an even battle, neither side was winning, but that felt like a victory to me because he was getting some extra time with his family.

But then we had Thanksgiving break, and I was off for 10 days. I was busy with family and didn’t get into the hospital. I was pretty sure that without a daily prayer with me he would likely die. Sure enough at the end of break I got word that Patrick had died. I was feeling confused and sad: why had my prayers for healing other young people been so effective, but my prayers for this man could not defeat the cancer, just slow it down for a few weeks? Why did God let a simple soul like Patrick die, when he had so much to live for? With questions like this shaking my faith, how could I survive the emotional toll of being a pastor and working with good people who were dying?

God’s Touch

So I did what I do in situations like that, I prayed. “God,” I said, “Father, I am really in pain right now. I am confused, I am doubting my calling. I need you to give me a touch. I am asking you to give me a touch. I going to hold out my hand, and would you please touch my hand and let me know you are there?” I really don’t know where that request came from. Gideon put out a fleece: I put out my palm. I had never asked anything like that of God before. It was just the cry of a broken heart, reacting with emotion and not intellect. So I lay face down on my bed with my right hand held open; and as I lay there I felt a firm touch on my palm. It was such a strong physical sensation of someone pressing a finger into my palm that I opened my eyes somewhat startled and looked around. I thought my wife might have come into the room and touched my hand, but I was alone.

That touch did two things to me: first it lifted me up emotionally – because I had been in such agony of the soul over Patrick’s passing. Secondly, my questions and doubts about why God let a good man like Patrick die were gone. That touch was like a spiritual defibrillator, it jolted me back to faith: I had just asked God to touch my palm, and he did! What do you do with something like that? How do you categorize it? There is a certain amount of shock that sets in; its good, a good thing happened, but it was surprising.

A Soul Ascending

A few hours later, I again walked into my room and lay face down on the bed to pray. Despite the experience of being touched I was still feeling deeply sorry for his widow and daughter. I was not in agony of the soul any more but I was also feeling a bit guilty because I had not been there daily to pray and to keep him going during the holiday. So I prayed for his family and for my guilt. While I was praying, I suddenly heard his voice, as if coming from above me. He said, “Timmy, its me Patrick.” There was a moment of silence, I responded “Hi Patrick, what is up with you?” He replied, “I don’t know where I am; do you know where I am?” I rolled over onto my back, I said, “I don’t know where you are but I know where you are going, and you need to go there now!” That was it; I heard nothing more from him ever again.

Conclusion

That experience caused me to understand that sometimes souls are so attached to this world that they are not ready to cross over and they can linger for a time. This and other similar incidents I’ve experienced also speak to me of the reality of the soul as an intelligent entity that survives the death of the physical body.

If you would like to share your spiritual experience, I would like to hear it.  Please use the ‘Contact Me’ form.

Relevant scripture verses:

1 Corinthians 12:4-11

4 Now God gives us many kinds of special abilities, but it is the same Holy Spirit who is the source of them all. 5 There are different kinds of service to God, but it is the same Lord we are serving. 6 There are many ways in which God works in our lives, but it is the same God who does the work in and through all of us who are his. 7 The Holy Spirit displays God’s power through each of us as a means of helping the entire church.

8 To one person the Spirit gives the ability to give wise advice; someone else may be especially good at studying and teaching, and this is his gift from the same Spirit. 9 He gives special faith to another, and to someone else the power to heal the sick. 10 He gives power for doing miracles to some, and to others power to prophesy and preach. He gives someone else the power to know whether evil spirits are speaking through those who claim to be giving God’s messages—or whether it is really the Spirit of God who is speaking. Still another person is able to speak in languages he never learned; and others, who do not know the language either, are given power to understand what he is saying. 11 It is the same and only Holy Spirit who gives all these gifts and powers, deciding which each one of us should have.

John 1:49-51 New International Version (NIV)

49 Then Nathanael declared, “Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the king of Israel.”
50 Jesus said, “You believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree. You will see greater things than that.” 51 He then added, “Very truly I tell you, you will see ‘heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.”