The online journal of Luke Dockery

Tag: Work

Reading and Walking in 2020


In April 2013, I started walking laps around the church auditorium while studying or reading. I found this helped me to focus better, and also it was a good way to be a little less sedentary while at work.

Each lap around the auditorium was approximately 74 yards:

This past year was strange due to COVID-19. Back in the spring when we suddenly became concerned about the pandemic, I began working from home, and did so for about 12 weeks. During that time, I walked and ran around my neighborhood a lot, and listened to a lot of audiobooks and podcasts while doing so, but quite naturally, fewer days in the office meant less opportunities for walking laps. Once I returned to the office, however, I was still not going to the gym, which meant that I was coming in early some days and getting a lot of reading done those days.

Without further ado, here are my totals for the year:

Total Laps in 2020: 6,836 (approximately 118 yards per lap)

Total Distance in 2019: 458.3 miles

Total Distance to date: 3419.4 miles

In 2020, my totals were the equivalent of walking from Erie, Pensylvania down to Cleveland, Ohio, through Columbus and Cincinnati, and finally stopping in Louisville, Kentucky.

I was surprised but pleased that my totals increased from last year. I have certainly spent enough time walking around the Cloverdale auditorium over the last 18 months that people have become aware of this unusual practice and now joke with me about it.

It has been a couple of years (2018) since I hit 500 miles for the year; that is my goal for 2021.

Working Hard without Being a Workaholic

As I was working obsessively to finish some work I was doing in the Book of Ecclesiastes, I was struck by its words of warning about being a workaholic (Ecclesiastes 2.18-23). Ironic, I know.

I think it is admirable and important to be a hard worker, so I work hard:

  • I work hard because the Bible teaches that God created people to be workers. From the beginning, God created Adam with a task, to tend and keep the Garden of Eden. We are not made for continued leisure; we are created for work.
  • I work hard because I think my work is important. Our church’s mission is to glorify God by making and maturing disciples to be like Christ. I try to help do that in a lot of ways, but as a youth minister, I specifically work to try and convert young people to Christ, and to help them grow as disciples.
  • I work hard because the work of ministry never ends. I never have nothing to do. I never come to the end of my tasks. There is always more that could be done…I could be better organized, I could be better prepared to teach or preach, I could study biblical languages more, I could spend more targeted time with a youth group member, etc.
  • I work hard to provide for my family. Like everyone, my wife and daughter have physical needs, and I work in order to keep them fed, clothed, and housed. I am thankful for the opportunity to provide for them.
  • I work hard because my salary is paid by other people who work hard. There is something very humbling about having your income provided by the generosity of others. Church members work hard at their jobs, freely offer contributions to the church, and I am paid from those funds. If I don’t work hard and do my best, I am robbing them and robbing God.

So hard work is good and there are a lot of good reasons to be a hard worker.

But, if I am honest, I am more than a hard worker—I am a workaholic. This does not make me particularly unusual, as it is becoming increasingly clear that in the United States, we are a nation of workaholics. Americans work more than any other industrialized nation, taking less vacation, working longer days, and retiring later as well.

Consider some of these American over-working statistics (available here):

  • 85.8% of men and 66.5% of women work over 40 hours per week.
  • From 1970 to 2006, the average numbers of work per year have increased by 200.
  • 70% of American children live in households where all adults are employed.
  • One in three American adults does not take his/her vacation days.
  • One in two workaholics’ marriages ends with a divorce.
  • 60% of workaholics spend less than 20 minutes eating during lunch.

Some of those bullets apply to me, as I frequently work well over 40 hours in a week, never take all of my vacation days, and rush or work through lunch some days. Additionally, here are some ways in which I sometimes act like a workaholic:

  • Already busy, it is easy for me to accumulate more and more tasks if I am not careful either because I am interested in a new task, or out of a desire to please people.
  • At times my work becomes a major part of my self-worth. It can be where I derive my sense of value.
  • I seek escape from life problems by plunging myself into my work.
  • Work can cause me to neglect relationships. This can happen when my busy schedule keeps me away from my family, but I noticed in strikingly one Sunday when I left a fellowship meal to go to my office to do more work.

Workaholism is unhealthy in any field. It can bring about unnecessary stress and fatigue which negatively impact our health. It can remove us from our families to the point that we neglect them. And as a minister, my excessive amount of work can fool me into thinking that somehow God loves me more for my many deeds, or that my obsessive desire to always do more in some way merits His favor. Definitely unhealthy.

This year, I am making a concerted effort to work hard without being a workaholic. Realizing that my work never ends but that I can come back and pick it up again the next day, I’m going to try to go home and see my family at a reasonable time rather than always working late. Knowing that my elders graciously give me a day off and vacation time for a reason, I will seek to use it. And knowing that ministry is primarily about being in the people business, I am determined to prioritize people over tasks.

Work is a good thing, but it is not the only thing. My study of Ecclesiastes has helped me to realize that, and I intend to live it out.

Get Out of the Rut and Challenge Yourself

This post is in some ways an extension of Tuesday’s post.
Succinctly put, it is important that we challenge ourselves rather than always falling back into the same repeated, familiar, comfortable patterns. It is only by challenging ourselves that we can grow and improve and become better.
The best example of this that I can think of is my own limited ability to put contacts in.

I have been wearing contacts for about 12 years, since I was a senior in high school. My eyes are very sensitive, and I always hated having eyedrops or anything put in, so it was a challenge for me to learn how to put contacts in and force a foreign object into my eye. I had to use both hands and have a mirror to do it so I could stare straight ahead and get the contact off my finger and onto my eye.
But here’s the thing: since I always put my contacts in this way, I never learned how to do it otherwise. I’ve known lots of people who can put their contacts in with one hand or without use of a mirror, but because I never challenged myself to learn how to do it, I’m still stuck in the same two-handed, mirrored rut (which can be a problem if you find yourself camping without a mirror or a broken arm or something prevents you from getting both hands to your eye).
I think this is an important lesson to learn for a lot of different aspects of life:
  • Think of how limited our health care options would be in brilliant and daring doctors hadn’t pushed the limits of what was considered to be possible at the time. A lot of the surgeries and procedures which are now commonplace are only possible because people challenged themselves and risks were taken.
  • A pitcher with a great fastball might tear through the high school ranks, but unless he challenges himself to try different things and learn additional pitches, he’ll never have more than a mediocre career.
  • Maybe you’ve never received the promotion at work that you want because you haven’t challenged yourself enough. Maybe you haven’t spent free time learning new skills that would make you an attractive candidate, or maybe you haven’t gone out of your way to network and develop the relationships that are needed to get the promotion.
  • Do you find yourself ignorant or uninformed about a specific topic that seems to come up over and over again? Challenge yourself to expand your knowledge in that area. Talk to a mechanic to better understand what’s going on under the hood of your car, or read a book that explains inflation, or get some CDs to listen to in the car that teach conversational Spanish.
  • If you are a Christian, are you tired of the fact that you claim to live your life based on a book that you only study at church and barely understand? Commit yourself to studying the Bible every day. Talk to a minister or read a book for tips on how to study deeper and more effectively. Sign up to teach a Bible class at church—that will force you to spend time in study!
  • Are you frustrated with your relationship with your teenage children? Challenge yourself to understand them better—listen to the music they listen to, ask about their interests, sacrifice your free time to spend time doing what they like to do with them.
We could probably come up with dozens of examples, but the principle remains the same: if you want to improve your life—professionally, spiritually, athletically, relationally, socially, informationally—you’ve got to challenge yourself. You can’t stay in the rut, doing the same things over and over and expect to improve.
Oh, and by the way, today I put my contacts in without a mirror (You know, practice what you preach and all that).

He Makes A Good Point…

As most of my readers know, I work at a church as a youth minister. Since my church is not particularly large (about 200 members), we have a pretty small staff—the preaching minister, a (part-time) secretary, and myself.

This means that while my primary focus is working with the teens, it is by no means the only thing I do—I preach once a month, I’m in charge of the church website, I do a variety of special projects, and I also work each week on the church bulletin.

For the bulletin, I only have to write one page (for the teens), but I do layout and editing for six of the eight pages. Occasionally, this task proves to be a great source of humor.

Today, I was proofreading an article which dealt with the importance of being an active member of the church, rather than someone who just showed up for worship and never got involved.

The author made the point that work is actually good for us—it keeps our minds and bodies active and also gives us incentive in life. In fact, as the author pointed out:

“Statistics indicate that the mortality rate increases following retirement.”

Seriously? You mean, people tend to die at a quicker rate following retirement? I always assumed that had something to do with the fact that people retire when they’re, well, older, and older people tend to die at a quicker rate than younger people do.

Really, I understand the point the guy was trying to make, but what a laughable statement.

Even better is the fact that I’ve read this quote before, because we’ve used this article already. A better editor might point this out and choose something else, but I thought it was just too good to pass up.

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