Senior Education. If your teaching is to change lives it is essential that you identify with your students.
The Economics of Soul
Care of the soul requires ongoing attention to every aspect of life. Essentially it is a cultivation of ordinary things in such a way that soul is nurtured and fostered. If we do not tend the soul consciously and artfully, then its issues remain largely unconscious, uncultivated, and therefore not at peace.
In many religious traditions, work is not set off from the precincts of the sacred, carefully designed life as are prayer, meditation and liturgy. Formal religion always gives us hints about the depth dimension of anything in daily life, in this case the idea that work is not the secular enterprise the modern world assumes it is. Whether we do it with mindfulness and spiritually, or whether it takes place in unmitigated unconsciousness, work affects the soul profoundly. It is full of spiritual areas and speaks to the soul at many different levels. It may for example, may bring up such factors as honesty, a days work, etc. They may be connected to religious rules, traditions, and ideals. Or work may be a means of sorting out issues that have little to do with work itself. It may be a response to eternal reward. We may find ourselves doing work that has been in the family for generations or working at a job that appeared after a number of coincidences and/or divine guidance. In this sense, all work is a vocation, a calling from a place that is the source of meaning and identity, God, the roots of which lie beyond human intention and interpretation.
The technical name for the category of rituals that take place in church, such as baptism or the eucharist, is liturgy. It comes from the Greek words laos and ergos, which together can be translated simply as “ordinary person’s work” or “the labor of the laity.” The rituals that take place in church are a kind of work, the soul’s work: something of the soul is being impacted by the work of the ritual. Still there is no need to separate that work from the work that goes on “in the world.” From a depth point of view, all work is liturgy. Ordinary actions, too, accomplish something for the soul. What takes place in a church is an examplar for what happens in the world. Church points out the profound, often hidden nature of worldly activity. We could say, then, that all work is sacred, whether you are building a road, cutting a person’s hair, or taking out the garbage.
We can bridge the gap between sacred church and secular world by occasionally spiritulizing the everyday things we do. It isn’t necessary to place a cloak of religiosity on everyday work in order to make it sacred; formal ritual is only a way of reminding ourselves of the ritual qualities that are in work anyway. Workers assume that their tasks, too are purely secular and functional, but even such ordinary jobs as carpentry, secretarial services, and gardening relate to the soul as much as to function.
Our work takes on narcissistic qualities when it does not serve well as a reflection of self. When that inherent reflection is lost, we become more concerned instead with how our work reflects on our reputations. We seek to repair our painful narcissism in the glow of achievement, and so we become distracted from the soul of the work for God’s glory. We are tempted to find satisfaction in secondary rewards, such as money, prestige, and the trappings of success.
It’s obvious that climbing the ladder of success can easily lead to loss of soul. An alternative may be to choose a profession or projects with soul in mind. If a potential employer describes all the benefits of a job, we could ask about the soul values. What is the spirit in this workplace? Will I be treated as a person here? Is there a feeling of community? Do people love their work? Is what we are doing and producing worthy of my commitment and long hours? Are there any moral problems in the jo9b or workplace – making things detrimental to people or to the earth, taking excessive profits or contributing to racial and sexist oppression? It is not possible to care for the soul while violating or disregarding one’s own moral sensibility. Narcissus and work are further related because the love that goes out into our work comes back as love of self.
When the soul is involved, the work is not carried out by the ego alone; it arises from a deeper place and therefore is not deprived of passion, spontaneity and grace.
Money and work are, of course, intimately related. By splitting concern for financial profit from the inherent values of work, money can become the focus of a job’s narcissism. In other worlds, pleasure in money can take the place of pleasure in work. Still, we all require money, and money can be an integral part of work without loss of soul. The crucial point is our attitude. In most work there can be a close relationship between caring for the world in which we live (ecology) and caring for the quality of our way of life (economy).
Mooney is simply the coinage of our relationship to the community and environment in which we live. It is the recognition that community is necessary and that it requires rules of participation. Money is cental in our attempts to live a communal life. From the perspective of soul, wealth and poverty come together in responsible use and enjoyment of this world, which is only leased to us for the period of our tenure here. The soul is nurtured by want as much as by plenty. When I speak for the soul of poverty, I do not mean one should romanticize Poverty as a means of transcending bodily life. Certain forms of spirituality flee the evils of money in favor of transcendence and moral purity.
Money can easily swamp the soul and carry consciousness off into compulsion and obsession. We have to distinguish between shadow qualities of money that are part of its soulfulness and shadow qualities of money that are part of its soulfulness and symptoms of money gone berserk. Greed, avarice, cheating, and embezzlement are signs that the soul of money has been lost. We act out the need for wealth of soul through its fetish, gathering actual sums of money without regard for morality, rather than entering the communal exchange of money.
Money brings us into the hand combat in the sacred warfare of life. It takes us out of innocent idealism and brings us into the deeper, mo9re soulful places where power, prestige, and self-worth are hammered out through substantial involvement in the making of culture. Therefore money can give grounding and grit to a soul.
The pleasure of hoarding can be seen as an archetypal quality of money itself, which becomes soul-denying only when it is the only way we deal with money, or when we use it for purely personal reasons. If the shadow is not acknowledged, however, the hoarding may be carried out with feelings of guilt, a sign that we are trying to do two things at once – enjoy money’s hoarding shadow and yet maintain innocence.
The relationship0 between money and work carries so much spirituality that it is both a burden and an extraordinary opportunity. Many of the problems associated with work center on money. We don’t make enough. We feel we are worth more than we are making. We don’t ask for the amount we deserve. Money is our only concern. Our fathers will be proud of us only when we have made as much as they have or more. We will feel part of adult society only when we have all the hallmarks of wealth and financial security. As a result of such feelings, we respond to money either shunning its power – or compulsively.
Failure in Work
According to traditional teaching, it is the life-embedded soul, not soaring spirit, that defines humanity. Christianity offers a profound image of this gesture of descent. Artists have painted hundreds of versions of the Annunciation, the moment when the Holy Spirit in the form of a bird in a shower of golden light makes the lowly women, Mary, pregnant with a divine child. This mystery is remembered every time an idea is brought into life. First we are inspired, and then we search out ways to give body to our inspirations.
If we could understand the feelings of inferiority and humbling occasioned by failure as meaningful in their own right, then we might incorporate failure into our work so that it doesn’t literally devastate us. Wallowing in it rather than letting it affect the heart, is a subtle defense against the corrosive action that is essential to it and that fosters soul. By appreciating failure with spirituality, we reconnect it to success.
Creativity with soul
Creativity, another potential source of soul in our work lives, is vital. Usually we imagine creativity from the puer point of view, investing it with idealism and lofty fantasies of exceptional achievement. In this sense, most work is not creative. It is ordinary, repetitious, and democratic.
But if we were to bring our very idea of creativity down to earth, it would not have to be reserved for exceptional individuals or identified with brilliance. In ordinary life creativity means making something for the soul out of every experience. Sometimes we can shape experience into meaningfulness prayerfully and spiritually. At other times, simply holding experience in memory and in reflection allows it to incubate and reveal some of its inspiration. Creativity may assume many different forms.
A mother may enjoy raising her children for months or years, every day thinking up new ideas for them. Then one day the inspiration leaves and emptiness takes over. If we could see how our blank spots are part of our creativity, we might not so quickly exclude this aspect of work from our humble lives.
Creative work can be exciting, inspiring, and godlike, but it is also humdrum, and full of anxieties, frustrations, dead ends, mistakes, and failures. It can be free of narcissism and focus on the problems the material world furnishes anyone who wants to make something of it. Creativity is, foremost, being in the world soulfully, for the only thing we truly make, whether in the arts, in business, or at home, is soul.
As we do our daily work, make our homes and marriages, raise our children, and fabricate a culture, we are all being creative. Entering our eternal life with generous attentiveness and care, we enjoy a soulful kind of creativity that may or may not have the brilliance of the work of great artists. The ultimate work, then, is an engagement with soul, responding to the demands of eternal life as it presents itself. Then the satisfactions of our work will be deep and long lasting, and undone neither by failures nor by flashes of success.
Psalms Book Overview
The Book of Psalms is a collection of various smaller groupings of psalms that were used in Israel’s worship over the centuries. Some psalms were associated with certain feasts (Ps. 130, Yom Kipper; ps. 135, Passover), others with the Sabbath (Ps. 92-100), and others for confession (Ps 32; 51) or praise (Ps. 111-118; 146-150).
In this book, the psalmists praise God for his justice, express confidence in God’s compassion, recount the depravity of humanity, plead for vindication, ask God to deliver them from their enemies, speak of the blessedness of the forgiven sinner, and portray God as a shepherd. We should worship God with the same sense of adoration found in these psalms.
- Vital Statistics
|Purpose:||To provide poetry for the expression of praise, worship, and confession to God|
|Authors:||David wrote 73 psalms; Asaph wrote 12; the sons of Korah wrote 9; Solomon wrote 2; Heman (with the sons of Korah), Ethan, and Moses each wrote one; and 51 psalms are anonymous. The New Testament ascribes two of the anonymous psalms (Psalms 2 and 95) to David (see Acts 4:25; Hebrews 4:7).|
|Date Written:||Between the time of Moses (approximately 1440 b.c.) and the Babylonian captivity (586 b.c.)|
|Setting:||For the most part, the psalms were not intended to be narrations of historical events. However, they often parallel events in history, such as David’s flight from Saul and his sin with Bathsheba.|
|Key Verse:||“Let everything that lives sing praises to the Lord! Praise the Lord!” (150:6).|
|Key Place:||God’s holy Temple|
“Hi, how are you?” “Fine.” Not exactly an “in-depth” discussion, this brief interchange is normal as friends and acquaintances pass and briefly touch each other with a cliché or two. Actually, clichés are a way of life, saturating sentences and permeating paragraphs. But if this is the essence of our communication, our relationships will stall on a superficial plateau. Facts and opinions also fill our verbiage. These words go deeper, but the true person still lies hidden beneath them. In reality, it is only when honest feelings and emotions are shared real people can be known, loved, and helped.
Often, patterns of superficial communication spill over into our talks with God. We easily slide through well-worn lines recited for decades, or we quickly toss a cliché or two at God and call it prayer. There is no doubt that God hears and understands these feeble attempts, but by limiting the depth of our communication, we become shallow in our relationship with him. But God knows us, and he wants to have genuine communication with us.
At the center of the Bible is the book of Psalms. This great collection of songs and prayers expresses the heart and soul of humanity. In them, the whole range of human experiences is expressed. There are no clichés in this book. Instead, David and the other writers honestly pour out their true feelings, reflecting a dynamic, powerful, and life-changing friendship with God. The psalmists confess their sins, express their doubts and fears, ask God for help in times of trouble, and praise and worship him.
As you read the book of Psalms, you will hear believers crying out to God from the depths of despair, and you will hear them singing to him in the heights of celebration. But whether the psalmists are despairing or rejoicing, you will always hear them sharing honest feelings with their God. Because of the honesty expressed by the psalmists, men and women throughout history have come, again and again, to the book of Psalms for comfort during times of struggle and distress. And with the psalmists, they have risen from the depths of despair to new heights of joy and praise as they also discovered the power of God’s everlasting love and forgiveness. Let the honesty of the psalmists guide you into a deep and genuine relationship with God.
Worship, In two thousand years we haven’t worked out the kinks. We still struggle for the right words in prayer. We still fumble over Scripture. We don’t know when to stand. We don’t know when to kneel. We don’t know when to pray.
Worship is a daunting task.
For that reason, God gave us Psalms – a praisebook for God’s people. The Psalms could be titled God’s Book of Common Prayer. This collection of hymns and petitions are strung together by one thread – a heart hungry for God.
Some are defiant. Others are reverent. Some are to be sung. Others are to be prayed. Some are intensely personal. Others are written as if the whole world would use them. Some were penned in caves, others in temples.
But all have one purpose – to give us the words to say when we stand before God.
The very variety should remind us that worship is personal. No secret formula exists. What moves you may stymy another. Each worships differently. But each should worship.
This book will help you do just that.
Here is a hint. Don’t just read the prayers of these saints, pray them. Experience their energy. Imitate their honesty. Enjoy their creatively. Let these souls lead you in worship.
And let’s remember. The language of worship is not polished, perfect, or advanced. It’s just honest.
- The Blueprint
|Book I Psalms 1:1–41:13||While the psalms are not organized by topic, it is helpful to compare the dominant themes in each section of the Psalms to the five books of Moses. This first collection of psalms, mainly written by David, is similar to the book of Genesis. Just as Genesis tells how mankind was created, fell into sin, and was then promised redemption, many of these psalms discuss humans as blessed, fallen, and redeemed by God.|
|Book II Psalms 42:1–72:20||This collection of psalms, mainly written by David and the sons of Korah, is similar to the book of Exodus. Just as Exodus describes the nation of Israel, many of these psalms describe the nation as ruined and then recovered. As God rescued the nation of Israel, he also rescues us. We do not have to work out solutions first, but we can go to God with our problems and ask him to help.|
|Book III Psalms 73:1–89:52||This collection of psalms, mainly written by Asaph or Asaph’s descendants, is similar to the book of Leviticus. Just as Leviticus discusses the Tabernacle and God’s holiness, many of these psalms discuss the Temple and God’s enthronement. Because God is almighty, we can turn to him for deliverance. These psalms praise God because he is holy, and his perfect holiness deserves our worship and reverence.|
|Book IV Psalms 90:1–106:48||This collection of psalms, mainly written by unknown authors, is similar to the book of Numbers. Just as Numbers discusses the relationship of the nation of Israel to surrounding nations, these psalms often mention the relationship of God’s overruling Kingdom to the other nations. Because we are citizens of the Kingdom of God, we can keep the events and troubles of earth in their proper perspective.|
|Book V Psalms 107:1–150:6||This collection of psalms, mainly written by David, is similar to the book of Deuteronomy. Just as Deuteronomy was concerned with God and his Word, these psalms are anthems of praise and thanksgiving for God and his Word. Most of the psalms were originally set to music and used in worship. We can use these psalms today as they were used in the past, as a hymnbook of praise and worship. This is a book that ought to make our hearts sing.|
|Praise||Psalms are songs of praise to God as our Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer. Praise is recognizing, appreciating, and expressing God’s greatness.||Focusing our thoughts on God moves us to praise him. The more we know him, the more we can appreciate what he has done for us.|
|God’s power||God is all-powerful; and he always acts at the right time. He is sovereign over every situation. God’s power is shown by the ways he reveals himself in creation, history, and his Word.||When we feel powerless, God can help us. His strength can overcome the despair of any pain or trial. We can always pray that he will deliver, protect, and sustain us.|
|Forgiveness||Many psalms are intense prayers asking God for forgiveness. God forgives us when we confess our sin and turn from it.||Because God forgives us, we can pray to him honestly and directly. When we receive his forgiveness, we move from alienation to intimacy, from guilt to love.|
|Thankfulness||We are grateful to God for his personal concern, help, and mercy. Not only does he protect, guide, and forgive us, but his creation provides everything we need.||When we realize how we benefit from knowing God, we can fully express our thanks to him. By thanking him often, we develop spontaneity in our prayer life.|
|Trust||God is faithful and just. When we put our trust in him, he quiets our hearts. Because he has been faithful throughout history, we can trust him in times of trouble.||People can be unfair and friends may desert us. But we can trust God. Knowing God intimately drives away doubt, fear, and loneliness.|
|Reasons to Read Psalms|
|When you want…||Read…|
|to find comfort||Psalm 23|
|to meet God intimately||Psalm 103|
|to learn a new prayer||Psalm 136|
|to learn a new song||Psalm 92|
|to learn more about God||Psalm 24|
|to understand yourself more clearly||Psalm 8|
|to know how to come to God each day||Psalm 5|
|to be forgiven for your sins||Psalm 51|
|to feel worthwhile||Psalm 139|
|to understand why you should read the Bible||Psalm 119|
|to give praise to God||Psalm 145|
|to know that God is in control||Psalm 146|
|to give thanks to God||Psalm 136|
|to please God||Psalm 15|
|to know why you should worship God||Psalm 104|
|God’s Word was written to be studied, understood, and applied, and the book of Psalms lends itself most directly to application. We understand the psalms best when we “stand under” them and allow them to flow over us like a rain shower. We may turn to Psalms looking for something, but sooner or later we will meet Someone. As we read and memorize the psalms, we will gradually discover how much they are already part of us. They put into words our deepest hurts, longings, thoughts, and prayers. They gently push us toward being what God designed us to be—people loving and living for him.|
The Psalms reflect the stylistic characteristics of Hebrew poetry, i.e., repetition, and vivid imagery. The moods of the Psalms embrace the whole range of human experience from exuberant praise (Ps. 145) to despair (Ps. 42); from intense anger (Ps. 137) and doubt about God’s care (Ps. 73) to hope for a future based precisely upon God’s care (Ps. 23). They can help us express emotions that otherwise we might not have words for, or feel right about. The Psalms catch the reality of our up and down relationship to God, but they also move us steadily along the path of knowing God.
1 It is better to be poor and honest than to be a fool and dishonest.
2 Zeal without knowledge is not good; a person who moves too quickly may go the wrong way.
3 People ruin their lives by their own foolishness and then are angry at the Lord.
4 Wealth makes many “friends”; poverty drives them away.
5 A false witness will not go unpunished, nor will a liar escape.
6 Many beg favors from a prince; everyone is the friend of a person who gives gifts!
7 If the relatives of the poor despise them, how much more will their friends avoid them. The poor call after them, but they are gone.
8 To acquire wisdom is to love oneself; people who cherish understanding will prosper.
9 A false witness will not go unpunished, and a liar will be destroyed.
10 It isn’t right for a fool to live in luxury or for a slave to rule over princes!
11 People with good sense restrain their anger; they earn esteem by overlooking wrongs.
12 The king’s anger is like a lion’s roar, but his favor is like dew on the grass.
13 A foolish child is a calamity to a father; a nagging wife annoys like a constant dripping.
14 Parents can provide their sons with an inheritance of houses and wealth, but only the Lord can give an understanding wife.
15 A lazy person sleeps soundly—and goes hungry.
16 Keep the commandments and keep your life; despising them leads to death.
17 If you help the poor, you are lending to the Lord—and he will repay you!
18 Discipline your children while there is hope. If you don’t, you will ruin their lives.
19Short-tempered people must pay their own penalty. If you rescue them once, you will have to do it again.
20 Get all the advice and instruction you can, and be wise the rest of your life.
21 You can make many plans, but the Lord’s purpose will prevail.
22Loyalty makes a person attractive. And it is better to be poor than dishonest.
23 Fear of the Lord gives life, security, and protection from harm.
24 Some people are so lazy that they won’t even lift a finger to feed themselves.
25 If you punish a mocker, the simpleminded will learn a lesson; if you reprove the wise, they will be all the wiser.
26 Children who mistreat their father or chase away their mother are a public disgrace and an embarrassment.
27If you stop listening to instruction, my child, you have turned your back on knowledge.
28 A corrupt witness makes a mockery of justice; the mouth of the wicked gulps down evil.
29 Mockers will be punished, and the backs of fools will be beaten.
- Proverbs 19:1
A blameless life is far more valuable than wealth, but most people don’t act as if they believe this. Afraid of not getting everything they want, they will pay any price to increase their wealth—cheating on their taxes, stealing from stores or employers, withholding tithes, refusing to give. But when we know and love God, we realize that a lower standard of living—or even poverty—is a small price to pay for personal integrity. Do your actions show that you sacrifice your integrity to increase your wealth? What changes do you need to make in order to get your priorities straight?
- Proverbs 19:2
We often move hastily through life, rushing headlong into the unknown. Many people marry without knowing what to expect of their partner or of married life. Others try illicit sex or drugs without considering the consequences. Some plunge into jobs without evaluating whether or not they are suitable to that line of work. Don’t rush into the unknown. Be sure you understand what you’re getting into and where you want to go before you take the first step. And if it still seems unknown, be sure you are following God.
- Proverbs 19:8
Is it good to love yourself? Yes, when your soul is at stake! This proverb does not condone the self-centered person, who loves and protects his or her selfish interests and will do anything to serve them. Instead, it encourages those who really care about themselves to seek wisdom.
- Proverbs 19:16
The commandments we are told to obey are those found in God’s Word, such as the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20) and other passages of instruction. To obey what God teaches in the Bible is self-preserving. To disobey is self-destructive.
- Proverbs 19:17
Here God identifies with the poor as Jesus does in Matthew 25:31-46. As our Creator, God values all of us, whether we are poor or rich. When we help the poor, we honor both the Creator and his creation. God accepts our help as if we had offered it directly to him.
- Proverbs 19:23
Those who fear the Lord receive “protection from harm” because of their healthy habits, their beneficial life-style, and sometimes through God’s direct intervention. Nevertheless the fear of the Lord does not always protect us from trouble in this life: Evil things still happen to people who love God. This verse is not a universal promise but a general guideline. It describes what would happen if this world were sinless, and what will happen in the new earth, when faithful believers will be under God’s protection forever. (See the note on 3:16, 17 for more about this concept.)
- Proverbs 19:25
There is a great difference between the person who learns from criticism and the person who refuses to accept correction. How we respond to criticism determines whether or not we grow in wisdom. The next time someone criticizes you, listen carefully to all that is said. You might learn something.
|How to Succeed in God’s Eyes|
|Proverbs notes two significant by-products of wise living: success and good reputation. Several verses also point out what causes failure and poor reputation.|
|Qualities that promote success and a good reputation|
|Godliness (righteousness)||10:7; 12:3; 28:12|
|Hating what is false||13:5|
|Committing all work to the Lord||16:3|
|Using words with restraint; being even-tempered||17:27, 28|
|Loving wisdom and understanding||19:8|
|Humility and fear of the Lord||22:4|
|Willingness to confess and forsake sin||28:13|
|Qualities that prevent success and cause a bad reputation|
|Wickedness||10:7; 12:3; 28:12|
|Other verses dealing with one’s reputation are 11:10, 16; 14:3; 19:10; 22:1; 23:17, 18; 24:13, 14.|