To pray is to work and to work is to pray.
Psalm 90: 17
May the graciousness of the LORD our God be upon us; *
prosper the work of our hands;
prosper our handiwork.
Robert Frost "Two Tramps in Mud Time" (1936):
"But yield who will to their separation
My object in living is to unite
My avocation and my vocation
As my two eyes make one in sight.
Only where love and need are one,
And the work is play for mortal stakes,
Is the deed ever really done
For Heaven and the future's sakes.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
As Kingfishers Catch Fire
As king fishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves -- goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.
I say more: the just man justices;
Keeps grace: that keeps all his goings graces;
Acts in God's eye what in God's eye he is --
Christ. For Christ plays in ten thousand places,
Lovely in limbs, and lovely in eyes not his
To the Father through the features of men's faces.
St. Theresa of Avila:
Christ has no body on earth but yours,
no hands but yours, no feet but yours;
yours are the eyes through which is to took out Christ's compassion to the world,
yours are the feet with which He is to go about doing good,
and yours are the hands with which He is to bless us now.
The religious liberal publicly expresses his or her faith through what Jews call Tikkun Olam, the healing of the world. They commit charitable acts and fight for justice. They act in their public lives in accordance with private morality, but do not seek to force their concept of morality upon others. Instead, they feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and heal the sick. They march for the common dignity of human beings, for peace or economic justice or women's rights or gay rights or the environment. They do so because their religious beliefs demand it.
Thomas Merton, Thoughts in Solitude
When we are not living up to our true vocation, thought deadens our life, or substitutes itself for life, or gives in to life so that our life drowns out our thinking and stifles the voice of conscience. When we find our vocation—thought and life are one.
God, we have no idea where we are going. We do not see the road ahead of us. We cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do we really know ourselves, and the fact that we think we are following your will does not mean that we are actually doing so. But we believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And we hope we have that desire in all that we are doing. We hope that we will never do anything apart from that desire. And we know that if we do this you will lead us by the right road, though we may know nothing about it. Therefore, we will trust you always though we may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. We will not fear, for you are ever with us, and you will never leave us to face our perils alone.
Dorothy Sayers, Unpopular Opinions
Work is not primarily a thing one does to live, but the thing one lives to do. It is, or should be, the full expression of the worker's faculties, the thing in which he finds spiritual, mental, and bodily satisfaction. The first demand on a carpenter’s religion is that he makes good tables. What use is anything else if in the center of his life and occupation he is insulting God with bad carpentry?
Verna Dozier, The Dream of God
Jesus was a carpenter for two decades, and I wager the yokes he made rested like a blessing on the oxen and inspired his invitation, “take my yoke upon you, for my yoke is easy…”
Do you want to follow Jesus? Or are you content just to worship him, and postpone for just a little longer the fulfillment of the dream of God?
Questions immediately arise. “How do you follow Jesus?” “What would following Jesus look like” We are always asking for prescriptions. We want to be safe, to be sure we are doing the right thing. That to me is the voice of the Tempter.
Kingdom-of-God thinking calls us to risk. We always see through a glass darkly, and that is what faith is about. I will live by the best I can discern today. Tomorrow I may find out I was wrong. Since I do not live by being right, I am not destroyed by being wrong. The God revealed in Jesus whom I call the Christ is a God whose forgiveness goes ahead of me, and whose love sustains me and the whole created world.
Nothing scares us more than freedom. We are always afraid that freedom will degenerate into chaos – as it often does – so to escape chaos we flee to authority, which means authoritarianism.
The urgent task for us in the closing years of this turbulent century is to reclaim our identity as the people of God and live into our high calling as the baptized community. We are a chosen people, chosen for God’s high purposes, that the dream of God for a new creation may be realized.
In her 1991 book, The Dream of God, Verna Dozier wrote “God has paid us the high compliment of calling us to be coworkers with our Creator, a compliment so awesome that we have fled from it and taken refuge in the church. The urgent task for us is to reclaim our identity as the people of God and live into our high calling as the baptized community…that the dream of God for a new creation may be realized."
And from a sermon by Verna Dozier:
“Don’t tell me what you believe – tell me what difference it makes that you believe.”
Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC
It comes from the Latin vocare, to call, and means the work a person is called to by God.
There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Superego, or Self-Interest.
By and large a good rule for finding out is this: The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you've presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing cigarette ads, the chances are you've missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you're bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a), but probably aren't helping your patients much either. Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world's deep hunger meet.
Parker Palmer, Let Your Life Speak
Then I ran across the old Quaker saying, "Let your life speak." I found these words encouraging, and I thought they meant: "Let the highest truths and values guide you." I lined up the loftiest ideals I could find and set out to achieve them. The results were rarely admirable, often laughable, and sometimes grotesque. But always they were unreal, a distortion of my true self--as must be the case when one lives from the outside in, not the inside out. I had simply found a "noble" way to live a life that was not my own.
Today, some thirty years later, "Let life speak" means something else to me, a meaning faithful both to the ambiguity of those words and to the complexity of my own experience: Before you tell your life what you intend to do with it, listen for what it intends to do with you. Before you tell your life what truths and values you have decided to live up to, let your life tell you what truths you embody, what values you represent.
Today I understand vocation quite differently — not as a goal to be achieved but as a gift to be received. Discovering vocation does not mean scrambling toward some prize just beyond my reach but accepting the treasure of true self I already possess. Vocation does not come from a voice “out there” calling me to become something I am not. It comes from a voice “in here” calling me to be the person I was born to be, to fulfill the original selfhood given me at birth by God.
from The Temple (1633), by George Herbert
Teach me, my God and King,
In all things thee to see,
And what I do in any thing,
To do it as for thee:
Not rudely, as a beast,
To runne into an action;
But still to make thee prepossest,
And give it his perfection.
A man that looks on glasse,
On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth, through it passe,
And then the heav’n espie.
All may of thee partake:
Nothing can be so mean,
Which with his tincture (for thy sake)
Will not grow bright and clean.
A servant with this clause
Makes drudgerie divine:
Who sweeps a room, as for thy laws,
Makes that and th’ action fine.
This is the famous stone
That turneth all to gold:
For that which God doth touch and own
Cannot for lesse be told.