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Stop 3: Liberation

Question:

What taskmasters do you need to be liberated from to reclaim your dignity?

Write your Answer – click here

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Transcript of Video:

When God invites the people to have a day of rest each week, he reminds them that they have come out of a system of slavery and oppression in Egypt, and now they are to be a different people. In Egypt they were oppressed and under a system that demanded constant effort, constant productivity, a constant kind of restlessness, a constant pressure to perform and to achieve certain quotas. And Pharaoh pushed harder and harder because he had bigger dreams of accumulating more and more wealth. So we see the wealth moving up to the top, where Pharaoh is at the top of the pyramid as it were, and the people of Israel are in the bottom. Their ceaseless labor and productivity feeds Pharaoh’s insatiable hunger for wealth and for power.

And now God delivers the people out of that system and he tells them in the new system, “Yes, you’ll have work, but work is meant to be meaningful, it’s meant to be an integrated part of life.” We are not meant to be driven by constant productivity. And yet we find ourselves often in that place today where people say, “I have to work 60 or 70 hours a week in order to fulfill my employer’s expectations.” Or, “My employer expects to have contact with me through e-mail or phone 24/7 and I can be asked at any time to drop what I’m doing to take care of what he thinks is urgent.” This takes away the dignity of people, and it makes them just objects, which are driven to achieve the ends of the taskmaster who is over them.

And God’s liberation of people says that this type of rest is important. It’s important for the dignity of the person. So if you’re an employer, you have a responsibility to make sure that the people that are working for you have sufficient rest and have a chance to stop their labors and to be with their families, to have time to think and to live and to enjoy life, and not to demand ceaseless labor from them. And if you’re an employee, try to create in your week Sabbath times, times for stopping, for ceasing work, and for living into the fullness of your life. We’re not meant to just be tools of productivity.

-Br. David Vryhof

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114 Comments

  1. Kimber on March 2, 2015 at 16:31

    My taskmasters are bad habits. I can’t say a lot about these here. But there are just a number of lifestyle habits that have me in their control. Everything from letting my housekeeping go.. (I know, how can letting it go be a taskmaster? Well, by having a messy and cluttered house, my mind is always controlled by feelings of guilt and inadequacy.)… to eating too much and in general a less-than-healthy diet, so that I am overweight and live in a fairly sedentary state. Anyway, these health/lifestyle choices—or non-choices—seem to dominate my thoughts and leave me very short of following a “rule of life,” which is my goal and wish.

  2. Robert on March 1, 2015 at 20:25

    I’m a professor. I’ve spent my life asking questions of my students and colleagues and trying to come up with answers. My brain is conditioned to being “on” and “ready”all the time. It takes effort and humility to tell it to shut up.

  3. Susan on March 1, 2015 at 17:22

    Wow. I value the strongly put question – to reclaim my dignity. The reflection before the question shows the tyrannical side of our work cultures and sometimes of the workplace itself. It is very resonant for me. I don’t know why, I don’t know that I need to live my employment this way, but I do find that it erodes my dignity, and I’m sorry about that. I move in an anxiety soup–stress. I love the message that this is not necessary, not the will of God. Even as I appreciate that for some, it is very hard to discover ‘workable’ alternatives. Even still.
    This question helps to lever open the gate from my current (and long-term) working situation. It does not have to be this way.
    The question of taskmasters can be extended of course, and that would be meaningful for me, too. Elements of life that make poor masters–and rob dignity.

  4. Nancy on February 28, 2015 at 19:38

    Like several others, I have allowed the Internet to be my taskmaster. Now is not a good time for me to give this up since we are planning a 50th class reunion and I have taken on the task of “communicator.” This series has given me a lot to think about!

  5. Kenneth Knapp on February 28, 2015 at 10:16

    Having just retired, I have been liberated from my biggest taskmaster. It remains to be seen whether or I can avoid replacing that taskmaster with one of my own invention.

  6. shawn on February 27, 2015 at 20:06

    I am my own taskmaster. Everything I do is serious. The enjoyment of doing things is lost because I try to do too many things. It is very difficult for me to relax but I try to put God first through prayer, meditation and bible study. Still, I don’t take time to smell the flowers but there just doesn’t seem to be enough time.

  7. Martha on February 25, 2015 at 21:05

    There are two guys that stand over me all the time—the guy of “you didn’t get enough done/there’s always more to do.” And the guy of “To rest is to waste time.” I need liberation from both. I don’t have the issue of an employer constantly pushing me or employees to manage but there are always more chores to do more work to be done more more more so that I have trouble saying to myself. “Okay, just read a book. Just watch this show.” Or whatever. They are my big problems—like ignorance and want in “A Christmas Carol”

  8. Gail on February 25, 2015 at 13:54

    Like others, I’m liberated in retirement. But I feel keenly the demand that I resist in anyway I can the elements of injustice in American society; sometimes the wrongs done to others feel very, very personal.

  9. Karen on February 25, 2015 at 13:00

    I could pretty much work 24 hours a day and still have work leftover. It’s hard to make myself stop some nights. Also, I feel the constant pull of the internet…what’s going on now? Who’s doing what? I need to make time to unplug from everything.

  10. Patricia on February 25, 2015 at 11:56

    When I first thought about this question, I thought of all my taskmasters (mine and those tasks for 2 other elderly). And then, I thought about my husband’s mantra for so many years “duty and service.” There is little “productive” work he can do these days so one of my most important tasks is to help him find small ways to feel that he is an important person in our relationship and that the “work” he does impacts our family in good ways. All the things that I have loved and have lost over these years, now seem insignificant.

  11. Mike Walley on February 25, 2015 at 08:55

    Surprised to see so many people are being held hostage to their own demands for perfection and self worth. Sad to say I suffer from the same desire to be correct and valued. I have known forever that God accepts and values me regardless of my flaws, but still struggle to reconcile myself with the notion

    • Jerome Berkeley on February 25, 2015 at 09:07

      Yes, Mike, I agree. I am reminded of a quote by the great jazz artist Sun Ra. “All I’ve ever wanted to be in this world is what they would let me be – and that is to be a failure.” What he meant by that was that he utterly rejected the oppressive and crushing systems of the world which block opportunity and fullness for most of humanity, and for even those relative few who are granted opportunity, it comes at a soul-crushing cost. Sun Ra was in fact, a highly disciplined artist, whose playing and skill dazzled cynical purists who could not comprehend his music or how he and his band lived. Yet they so often could not get past superficial appearances or the limits of what they deemed acceptable or “right”. His music and his vision were too far out for mainstream ears, yet even fellow jazz artists often dismissed him, mistakenly thinking he was a gimmick. In fact, he built a beautiful legacy which continues to flourish many years after his death. I wish more people would simply reject and not participate in these systems which distort and crush our beings. Easy to do? No. But it is possible. And in many ways, isn’t that precisely what Jesus did?

  12. Christopher Engle Barnhart on February 25, 2015 at 07:25

    I retired in 2012. The last three years have been for me an exploration of who I am, where I have been, where I am being and where I am going. I am now my own boss and manager. I have responsiblities to make a life for my wife and myself of Faith, Love and Hope. My wife and I have been Blessed by God in countless way which require work and rest each day. But I do so, with the knowledge that God is with us, Blessing us with new responsibilites and tasks that we never dreamed would happen both in are churc h family and in our life together. The road to get here for me has been frought with many failures that I regret. But I turn to God each day and asks for his forgiveness for what I have done and what I have left undone. For me and my wife, each day is a new beginning going forth in the knowledge that God is with us. He is our true Taskmaster.

  13. Jackie on February 25, 2015 at 06:46

    I am so grateful to our Rector for directing our parish to this Lenten series. It has given me pause to many of life struggles and I enjoy reading the thoughts of others that are shared by myself as well. I am blessed to work for a financial institution that recognizes and supports a “family first” mentality and puts the time commitment to work in the proper place. It’s me who can’t shake the guilt of taking advantage of that support when I’ve needed it the most these past few years of family illness where I was needed there. Guilt in many areas of my life is my taskmaster. But I’m trying very hard to eliminate it from what haunts me everyday. Learning through listening to God and others around me that it’s okay to take time for me and, as a Manager, let others put their family commitments in front of work as well without making them feel guilty about it. Guilt is the worst taskmaster of all, in my opinion, as the voices in my head won’t let me rest. I pray for strength from God.

  14. AnnL on February 25, 2015 at 00:26

    My biggest taskmaster is my inclination to take care of others over myself. I overcommit or deny myself to make others happy. I need to ler God lead me and not the needs of others.

  15. Louise on February 24, 2015 at 23:29

    When I first started thinking about this I thought, well, I am retired now so I don’t really have any “taskmasters” per se. I realized that I may be my only taskmaster. Then as I started reading some of the responses, I was amazed how many people were retired like me yet feel as many, if not more commitments than when they were retired. What struck me were the number of people who talked about email being a taskmaster. I have to agree with that; yet have only myself to blame. When was it that we let electronic devices and the product of these electronic devices so rule our lives. Constant texting instead of face to face communication; instant news, unending emails. Those are my taskmasters…and those are what rob me of time for more worthwhile life experiences.

  16. Karen on February 24, 2015 at 22:36

    I have thought that it is the church that is the taskmaster. But that’s not it. Of course there is always much to do and more that can be done. But the truth is, as others have expressed, the taskmaster is me.

  17. Victor on February 24, 2015 at 22:31

    My need for control takes over and it can take away the freedom that many around me have to create and be.

  18. Elizabeth S. on February 24, 2015 at 22:16

    Like many others have posted, my taskmaster is not a job or employer. In fact, my employer is fantastic about supporting us to keep our work in balance with the rest of our lives. Rather, my taskmaster is from within. Fear. Feelings of inadequacy, feelings of not belonging. To reclaim my dignity, which to me means to love myself and truly feel that I’m a valued, cherished, and beloved child of God, requires that I throw off the yoke of fear. How do I do that???

  19. Ron on February 24, 2015 at 22:12

    Taskmaster, an interesting word. Most of the replies here acknowledge that we are own taskmasters–some good, some tyrannical, some loving, some not. But what I’m also reading is that being subject to a taskmaster is not the same as being enslaved. Some have found joy and fulfillment in the doing, clearly, provided the doing is done out of grace and love. So where is that line drawn? I wonder. I need to understand this better, clearly. I pray this Lent I get a better understanding of where I’m enslaved and where I’m “entasked.”

  20. Susan Zimmerman on February 24, 2015 at 21:37

    …the ‘c’hurch has turned into a taskmaster for me as there is such a great emphasis on the practical…some even are disgusted with what they call the “artsy type”? …bring a bag of food to church…volunteer, etc…although for a long time now I have never seen one of those we reach out to come into the church…sometimes I wonder if we give away so much in hope the ‘bottom’ stay ‘out there/away?’ …the theoretical, including Love, drew me deep into the church…it doesn’t even seem important in our bulletins if one can conjugate the verb ‘to be’ or leadership able to recognize the ‘Good’ in front of them…financial knowledge workers are about it, juxtaposed to those who have learned how to defer or as they call it in Illinois be a good crony. Deep into the theoretical but never one opportunity in my church to ever use it…begged for ministry since I was twenty-four…now sixty-four…Love is the only thing keeping me present.

  21. Bill on February 24, 2015 at 20:38

    Myself.

  22. Sarah on February 24, 2015 at 20:09

    I am the taskmaster that I need to be liberated from. I have a job that allows me plenty of time to pause, and for this I am exceedingly grateful. But I struggle with the fact that housework is a never-ending job…every weekend I make a gigantic to-do list of household jobs that need to be done, work at them as much as I can, stressing the whole time that I will NEVER do enough to feel “done”. I often cannot enjoy the time I choose to devote to something else because I am just feeling bad that there’s so many things I wanted to get done and won’t get to. This week I have been making some changes to how I approach my “to-do” list, accepting that there is never a “done”, especially for a mother with a 6 year old, 3 year old, and full-time work outside the home. I am trying to approach the time and tasks I designate as most important to keeping our home running with intentionally and with focus so that I can then allow myself some freedom from this taskmaster.

  23. Penny Nash on February 24, 2015 at 19:46

    I think I’m susceptible to expectations, real and imagined, that I always be available (hey, I’m a priest!), that I accomplish a lot (hey, I’m accomplished!), that I do everything everyone asks me to do (hey, I’m unable to set boundaries!). I am susceptible to perfectionism and the “not good enough” syndrome, internal voices that readily answer the call to over function from outside voices. I can’t blame the world for asking a lot of me, though. It’s my job to set my own boundaries. And therefore, it seems that the taskmaster I need to be liberated from is me myself.

  24. Linda Wood on February 24, 2015 at 19:44

    Sometimes I think (or maybe I should say I know) that my biggest taskmasters are things – my house, my yard, my room at school & all the “stuff” that fills those places – that demand attention & dealing with. Many of those things (too many, I’m sure) also hold sentimental value for me, which is a double whammy. So much to take care of, sort through, clean, and decide what to do with. It chokes the life & joy from out of me.
    “Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth…but store up for yourselves treasure in Heaven…for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” Matt. 6:19-21

  25. gwedhen nicholas on February 24, 2015 at 17:34

    I am self-employed so I can work for as little or as long as I like without anyone breathing down my neck.
    I think I do have an inner task master though, who I am learning to shut out. It is quite a process. Part of the problem I think is that I compare myself to others and what they are, or are not doing. When I do this I then strive to do or not do the opposite so that I won’t be like them. Maybe I suffer from a little pride? I think perhaps I am my own worst task master! Yes, I need to be liberated from myself.

  26. Ralph Ladd on February 24, 2015 at 17:28

    Taskmasters… just one…people pleasing….

  27. Susan Dredge on February 24, 2015 at 16:55

    Firstly, thank you God for bringing me to this blessed Lent and this course. Secondly, thank you to my fellow “Lenters”. Have read your comments, you have said it all for me and have found inspirations and help in your comments. I am also now retired. Over the years I have had a couple of employers whose demands have been high but that was what I was paid a wage for. Now I am retired, I am the taskmaster and need liberating from myself. I am not good at saying No or I am not able to do something. Yes seems to be an automatic response but as someone once told me, take a deep breath, think if you want to do something before actually saying yes. I am gradually now liberating myself and taking time. Time to pray, to talk with God, to talk with fellow Christians and non-Christians, to admire God’s handiwork in this world, to have the pleasure of voluntary work. I think I am the hardest taskmaster I have ever had but it is fulfilling to now be learning to draw back sometimes and just have time to myself.

  28. Christine white on February 24, 2015 at 16:47

    I am my own taskmaster way over doing it. I am in a bad situation w my business partner and I can’t catch my breathe. I do not know how to truly relax and enjoy. It is eating my soul away.

    • gwedhen nicholas on February 24, 2015 at 17:35

      Dear Christine,
      I will pray for you in your difficult situation.
      Gwedhen

  29. Cush on February 24, 2015 at 16:45

    As a retired person who is also disabled, my biggest taskmaster is probably social networking and enjoying my electronic “toys”. Need to work on that!

  30. Dana on February 24, 2015 at 15:28

    My own expectations that keep me from asking for the help or assistance I need, while placing unreasonable, perfectionist expectations on myself. In this way I am my taskmaster I need liberation from.

  31. Harold Pound on February 24, 2015 at 15:16

    My taskmaster is my belief that I must perform to have worth. I’m now retired and very busy with being a chaplain for homeless respite men. I’m finally doing something that I know my worth. I went to seminary and received a Master degree in theology and pastoral care. Afterwards I spend eight months in a clinical pastoral education class at a very large hospital. I prayed that I would not be covering emergency departments, very ill children departments, and birthing departments. Well guess what; I spent most of my time in all of those departments. I discovered I was good at helping people who were very ill, in an emergency situation, or were about to have a baby that was not expected to live. I had discovered my calling. I enjoy what I do. My taskmaster was what I had been told as a youngster by my parents. I no longer have to listen to that lie. I know I am a child of God and God does not make mistakes.

    • Jennifer on February 24, 2015 at 20:36

      What a wonderful calling for you in “retirement”! Bless you 🙂

  32. Lynn Adams on February 24, 2015 at 14:41

    Since I’m retired, there is only my internal taskmaster, and cultural expectations that I have internalized. I have built up a lifetime supply of resistance to these taskmasters, so at times I have neglected things like good housekeeping and practiced unhealthy escape habits like too much time playing games on the computer. These were not sabbath activities, and the result was a bad feeling about myself. Now I am married and together we are keeping the house much more habitable than I used to at one time. However, to reclaim my dignity, I have to break the habits of escapism that reduce the amount of time I spend doing really creative projects that give me energy and joy.
    I am certain that this is what God wants for me, but I find it hard to attain.

  33. Tina Bodiak on February 24, 2015 at 14:05

    As retired, I am learning to pare down my taskmaster (me) even though I enjoy all of my tasks. Sometimes I need to be a ‘human being rather than a human doing.’

  34. Linda B on February 24, 2015 at 13:55

    Like many other people I am my own taskmaster. I seem to fill every moment of my day with some activity. I do not leave time to just be still and quiet. I need to allow myself to be still and present and I need to stop demanding that I am working every moment.

  35. Ruth on February 24, 2015 at 13:54

    Just about anyone can be my taskmaster – but only because I let them. I work from home and today, I actually stopped for lunch, didn’t work while I was eating, then listened to your meditation afterwards. I can have control. I can set boundaries. Now, back to work, a little rested, refreshed, renewed.

  36. Beryl on February 24, 2015 at 13:07

    Shame and Humiliation. But I understand these are not new taskmasters……the psalms are full of them.

  37. jane goldring on February 24, 2015 at 12:55

    thanks david for that message, as always you put it so clearly that we can understand what you say. i keep busy with john, but i also have some time to enjoy bridge and golf. i enjoy going to church wednesday a.m. and hearing the messages our rector has to give to us. just seeing how sue and her family has been so helpful in moving john to two different places. i said to my nephew peter it was great the way the kids helped me. his reply was what are families for. also i believe you reap what you sew. thanks david

  38. Kim on February 24, 2015 at 12:48

    My desire to find purpose in life and to not be defined by a single aspect of my talents is my taskmaster. I have many talents and desires – talents: painting, gardening, singing, languages, sewing, drawing, knitting, piano, guitar; desires: to be a present and loving wife, to have a clean house, to have healthy, happy pets, to stay connected within my professional networks, among others. I can set aside my tasks for my job easily. There are only 40 hours of the week dedicated to this. The demands of the other things, and my drive to perfectionism in each drives me to overwork in my “off-hours.” I rarely have outside deadlines, but I push myself to work harder, faster, and more accurately even when knitting projects for myself or pulling weeds among the vegetables. Since I have so many things pulling me in different directions in this outside-of-work-work, I often do not live up to my own expectations. The dishes remain dirty, the laundry piles, the fish tank is green with algae, and careless mistakes are apparent in my handiwork.

  39. Verlinda on February 24, 2015 at 12:37

    I am my own worst taskmaster, because I all too often let the requests/desires of others become demands on my time. I’m consciously working on creating a better rhythm/balance in my life (working primarily from home can be both a blessing and a curse), and not letting others’ anxieties/worries automatically become mine.

    For me, it’s about hallowing and valuing my time , using it most wisely to be both responsive to the needs of my clients/friends and to allow myself time for connection with God and myself.

  40. Nicki on February 24, 2015 at 12:14

    Oh my, again I’m seeing clearly that the reordering of my time is my responsibility. Time, itself, is blameless. This keeps coming up as I hear the word intentional. The more I do, this week, intentionally, with regard to the time allowed, feels good while I’m working and feels good afterward. My inner taskmaster has been cracking the whip since my schooldays. Then and until retirement in 2000, never did I learn to step up and say that a task was more than I could do. Too often my results were under par or I was stressed out and resentful. All of which could have been avoided if I had taken charge of my time and made sensible decisions. Thanks to the blessed messages I am receiving in this series, I feel a more suitable strength building within. The taskmaster has to move over and share the space willingly. Thank you for this really difficult question!

  41. Alison Vogel on February 24, 2015 at 12:08

    This is exactly why I left my job 14 months ago. Unfortunately, the part-time gigs I’ve gotten since then don’t quite cover my expenses, so I’m looking for another full-time job. Trying to let God guide this process so I don’t end up working for another pharaoh. Thank you for reminding me that it’s a question of human dignity as well as health and sanity. Of course, as others have admitted, I also am part of the problem–my own tendency to workaholism and my desire to please others. And this part is much more difficult to address.

  42. Mary on February 24, 2015 at 12:00

    I am not required to be on call for work, and I am good about leaving work at work. My taskmaster is wasting time, mostly by getting sucked into the internet doing nothing. On Sunday I took a Sabbath from the internet except when I had a specific task in mind, then I turned it off again. I practiced being present in the moment, being aware of time passing by stopping every hour to rest and focus for 5 minutes and be grateful and trying to be mindful of what I was doing while I was doing it. I found that the day felt fuller, it felt like I had more time. So the taskmaster I have to be liberated from at the moment is the internet.

  43. Nancy on February 24, 2015 at 11:39

    My family, without meaning to be, are my taskmasters. Husband, father, mother, brother, daughters. I need to remember to take time for myself, and allow them to take care of themselves sometimes.

  44. Lissa Davis on February 24, 2015 at 11:30

    Expectations of others – keeping up a charade of normalcy – chronic anxiety disorder – current events – all these things, and more, keep me in constant production mode, even when I try to rest.

  45. Fr Scott on February 24, 2015 at 11:29

    Myself

  46. Cornelia on February 24, 2015 at 10:41

    My taskmaster is the insidious background conviction I’ve had for many years, that I am not good enough. So I worry and react to my fear of falling short. My great spiritual task has always been to accept myself as the gift that God has made.

  47. Stacy on February 24, 2015 at 10:29

    Although my employer is somewhat of a taskmaster, I need to be released by my own ‘inner taskmaster’.I think it’s partly workaholism – it’s hard for me to sit and do nothing, which is why this Lenten program is so good for me! Thank you!

  48. Robert on February 24, 2015 at 10:24

    I think like most everyone else I am my biggest task master. I too work for a wonderful company at the direction of great people. I need to get better at doing non work things and enjoying them.

  49. Sophfronia on February 24, 2015 at 10:12

    I’m been working for a long time now to liberate myself from the feeling of “I’m going to get into trouble” that comes up whenever I’m having a good time. It comes from when my father used to interrupt when my siblings and I were playing or watching TV. He’d ask our mother, “Isn’t there work these kids should be doing?” Soon moments of play felt like stolen treasures and all the while I would feel the moments would soon end, I would get into trouble for taking them.

    I think it will help me most to pay closer attention to taking and enjoying my Sabbath times so I can appreciate that I’ve worked when I was supposed to work, but I’m also allowed when my Sabbath time comes to rest and play and not be worried something bad will come of it.

    • Martha on February 25, 2015 at 21:04

      Thanks for sharing this! I think that that is definitely at play too with the taskmaster feeling–that to play is somehow to waste time. I think for those who have had difficult upbringings, it’s particularly difficutl to feel that play is acceptable.

  50. Tom on February 24, 2015 at 10:12

    None. I have been totally liberated through retirement and I could not feel any more refreshed and content.

  51. Lisa on February 24, 2015 at 10:06

    I am fortunate – I am retired at this time of life, other than a part time job. The taskmaster I have to deal with is my internal drive to do one more thing, the list of “to do’s” that is never done. It seems the Puritan work ethic has a pretty good hold on me. I have to create appropriate and intentional boundaries for myself – when it is time to work, play, rest, exercise.

  52. Mark Ash on February 24, 2015 at 10:00

    My only physical taskmaster is our 10 years young Shetland sheep dog, “Let me in; let me out; feed me; play with me.” No one else looks over my shoulder or holds me accountable. Somehow I very rarely arrange time to do nothing. Probably the closest we get to doing nothing Sabbath time is ironically the practice that we have of disciplining ourselves to have at least one Sunday each month when we deliberately stay home from attending the Episcopal church that is so nourishing to us. I still want to practice playing my mountain dulcimer every day. And I can’t imagine stepping away from causes that I care about. But I hope this thought provoking Lenten time together encourages be to disconnect … to turn off every one of my gadgets … and recharge by simplifying to the point of doing nothing … for at least a few minutes daily.

  53. KB on February 24, 2015 at 09:58

    We are not meant to be taskmasters of productivity. What a lovely quote from this lesson.

  54. N on February 24, 2015 at 09:51

    My own vanity and puffed-up sense of self is a vicious taskmaster and its handmaiden is technology. My employer, by contrast, is largely fair-minded and reasonable. I write as someone with full-time employment and benefits. Those without work (or regular meals or shelter) are driven by needs that I cannot imagine. Many of us require the dignity and sense of self-worth that employment can provide. I am grateful for the comments on this thread of those who are retired. By the way, I was much taken with the Brother’s interpretation of the Hebrews in Egypt. Thank you.

  55. Steve on February 24, 2015 at 09:49

    I work for the church. I am a lay executive. I see many ordained colleagues working 60-70 hours a week. I refuse to do it. But I am uneasy about proclaiming that. I think it is nuts and addictive. Society puts a value on overworking. We are like slaves with a master.

    • tambria lee on February 25, 2015 at 07:37

      So glad you see that it is nuts….so many folks believe that as ordained folks we have embraced fully ” you lose your life to save it….” Translated you are not meant to have a life if it means my needs will not get met. Share your observations repeatedly with your colleagues….maybe they will hear it if they dont think they are surrounded by people who are silently judging them for what they have left undone. We need those who model right relationship with church work….

  56. Melinda on February 24, 2015 at 09:49

    I am astounded at the number of posts that mirror my own thoughts-feelings. Thanks to all who share so openly. I too struggle with the need to be doing something I consider constructive in order to be ok. I am my worst taskmaster and critic. My often companion is doubt – Am I doing enough? Am I doing what God wants? And the list goes on. Lately what helps me is to ask the Lord God to grant me knowledge of His will for me this 24 hours, and give me the power (the grace) to carry that out. Then I trust He will. I respond in faith…Matthew 17:20 (NRSV) When I relax my grip I am peaceful and open to the guidance I need to balance my day and let go of the need to be doing.

  57. A & P on February 24, 2015 at 09:49

    It’s just my place in life that is causing me too many tasks.
    Towards the end of my career I have more ailments, less energy, and a needier client base by chance. Should I retire? Meanwhile, my very old parents insist on living independently so I inherit lots of jobs they refuse to hire. Both my young adult sons seem to be at career crossroads, and may need extra support. My husband is supportive but he travels on business so he is gone, or else his income is less.
    Today I am spending 2 days of my week long vacation time on something that I alone enjoy, but the rest of the week is given to others’ needs. My taskmaster is my time in life.
    Should I retire?

  58. Judy on February 24, 2015 at 09:46

    My biggest taskmaster is myself. I’ve spent this past year hitting the delete button on more than worthless emails and Internet sites (unsubcribe is my favorite link), but also on pleasant but not important activities that create busyness and take time, casual friendships that have no real intimacy or depth, etc. I ask myself if doing a particular activity is how I want to spend the limited number of hours that are left in my life. It’s so difficult for me!

    I stopped yesterday at 5 pm to take 20 minutes for prayer. I really just wanted to keep zipping along in my wound-up busy self. Much more difficult than giving up chocolate but I’m going to struggle to do this daily.

  59. Pati on February 24, 2015 at 09:12

    Hurtful comments and judgement …..

  60. David Cranmer on February 24, 2015 at 09:01

    When I first thought about an answer to the question of my taskmaster, I thought of compulsions in a general sense without specifying them. But as I read through what others have written, I realized that perfectionism is one of my taskmasters, that I have not yet accepted myself with weaknesses. And so, since I now do a lot of online teaching, I do find that I am working almost 24/7 because I fear that I will not fulfill my teaching responsibilities adequately.

  61. Deb on February 24, 2015 at 08:58

    Greatest task master is myself. I am trying to realize it is okay to say no

  62. Vicki on February 24, 2015 at 08:55

    I am lucky to work for an incredibly supportive organisation which encourages a healthy work / life balance and which is embracing flexible working as a means to helping its employees achieve this. I agree with many others that the task master in my life is myself! I have always struggled with the high standards I set myself and knowing when to stop. I am a perfectionist. But I recognise this now and because I am more aware, I am getting better at stopping and telling myself there are much more important things in life. And colleagues are very good at telling me the same!

  63. Leslie on February 24, 2015 at 08:52

    Myself – (sometimes)

  64. Jana Everett on February 24, 2015 at 08:36

    Mostly I’m the one that prevents me from creating sabbath time for myself. I say yes to requests instead of no. I don’t find time to meditate. I just mainly don’t value my time.

    • Terri on February 24, 2015 at 08:55

      I agree with Jana. I don’t find time to meditate or value my time. It is not impossible since I am unemployed. I am just struggling how and when to use my time wisely to meditate and take time to rest my mind from the urgency of finding a job to pay my bills. I find myself very anxious and depressed about financial issues.

  65. Ginny S on February 24, 2015 at 08:30

    Freedom from the bondage of self is always the real issue for me. Self-indulgence, self-pity, and self-centeredness result in fear and anxiety, creating roadblocks to a useful and peaceful life.

  66. Helen Chandler on February 24, 2015 at 08:19

    My strongest taskmaster is my own disordered mind and conscience! False expectations and that every-present feeling that whatever I am doing, I ought to be doing something else.

  67. Anonymous on February 24, 2015 at 08:16

    WOW! This spoke volumes to me. I have a job that is not very exciting any more as I’ve been doing it for 12 years. And I have so much down time that I have to ask for work. Most often there’s none to be given. Now don’t get me wrong…I’m thankful to have a job. But I need to “reclaim my dignity” and find a more meaningful position. I’m squandering precious time being bored a large percent of the time. This series is helping me to see this and do something about it. So I guess I may be my own taskmaster in a way because I haven’t done anything about it before now.

  68. Norm Anderson on February 24, 2015 at 08:03

    I am aware that I set my own speed-usually fast. I love to problem-solve and often get caught up in the hook of, “i need to help them!” mode. My taskmaster is myself!

  69. Karen on February 24, 2015 at 07:57

    My taskmaster is definitely me. I’m still carrying some of the behaviors and habits that I developed as a child to please adults who were not too kind. I have already begun to realize this in other areas of my life, especially in my relationships, but had not really thought about it in my work life. I’m thankful for this realization. Amen.

  70. Mary Frost on February 24, 2015 at 07:41

    Anxiety can masquerade as the overload of things to do…I remember not long ago, I didn’t have time for anything/everything…Life was an intrusion. It wasn’t true. There was plenty of time. It was all of my own doing. So, yes, then (late 60’s) my most ruthless task masters were imaginary.

  71. Kathy B on February 24, 2015 at 07:39

    I am too often under the taskmaster of “should” – I see these things that I should do, and should accomplish, and so I try to do and accomplish them. Some of them are my own high standards for my work. But many of them I didn’t intentionally choose, but rather accepted other’s expectations as my own burden. I need to sort through them to figure out which are worth keeping.

  72. Louise Howlett on February 24, 2015 at 07:34

    I recently changed careers and now make my own schedule as a therapist. I find this both freeing and difficult. It is so hard to say “No” to someone calling for help even if I have scheduled up the time allotted to client work versus self-care or church responsibilities. I need time and space to write my sermon for Sunday and meditate on my clients so I can be present with them each session, and remember their stories and emotions. I need time for my own practice of prayer and walking and yoga, and time to read and play with my dog, and especially hang out with my husband. So, I am literally praying over my calendar and asking for the strength to say “Not now” or to refer a person on to someone else.

  73. Judith on February 24, 2015 at 07:32

    When I thought of the question – and the answer was me – and my expectations – I thought I’d be the only one that had that particular taskmaster – how liberating to see that many of us feel the same way.
    Thank you for the structure of this program so that we can be ‘liberated’ somewhat by the group. I’m not alone!

    • NA on February 25, 2015 at 06:17

      Amen!

  74. JGlow on February 24, 2015 at 07:30

    Fear is my taskmaster. I fear that i might not be perceived as a team player or that I might not meet my director’s expectation of perfect performance. (That is actually my expectation, not my directors.) I also underestimate how much time it takes to do the work at hand.

  75. Annie Pike on February 24, 2015 at 07:11

    My taskmaster is my own self esteem. It stops me from believing in myself and doing the important things that make me happy and whole, which in turn will make me a better person for my two children. God often tells me this, but I fail to listen.

  76. Linda Heaney on February 24, 2015 at 06:55

    I expect (and) want too much from myself. I’m the little girl (now 72) that was told, “She to whom much is given, much is expected.” I’m trying to lower the volume on tasks and doing everything my friends are doing but it’s challenging. I’ve given facebook for lent and found that very helpful. It keeps some of the “oh, look at what they are doing; I want to (or should) do that” forces at bay. Thanks for asking. This was a good question for me.

  77. Virginia Brooks on February 24, 2015 at 06:54

    As others have said, I think I am my own worst taskmaster. It has recently been pointed out to me that I am an extremely competitive person, something I am unable to see in myself. I also tend toward perfectionism Add those ingredients to a job at a highly demanding and competitive institution, and it is toxic. Through these lessons and meditations, I am learning to stop and think about letting go of my perfectionism and need to always push to be the best. I am learning that there are rewards in setting that aside that are far more valuable than what I get when I drive myself too hard. And starting the day with time to reflect on these questions has been an enormous help.

  78. Page on February 24, 2015 at 06:50

    Fear, and sloth are my taskmaster I need to be liberated from.

  79. Craig sugden on February 24, 2015 at 06:45

    I would love to see the return of nine to five. Personally I am fine but i am worried about my children becoming ‘slaves’ to their corporations. I am trying to get them to think about getting careers in which they set their own hours. Work to live, not live to work.

  80. Becky on February 24, 2015 at 06:39

    Learning not to say yes to every request for my time &/or talent has been an important learning for me. I am grateful to the one who has helped me learn this. Until I learned to do this I felt depleted and frazzled much of the time. Saying yes to everything was a way to find self-worth. I realize now that was nuts.

  81. Christopher Epting on February 24, 2015 at 06:38

    In a day when the church is often mired in a “consumer/provider” model and clergy are expected to grow the church by magically attracting young people and families those very expectations have often felt like a taskmaster from which I needed to be liberated!

    • tambria lee on February 25, 2015 at 07:26

      As a parish priest I totally agree….it is not just the families with young children….it is whatever the marketplace demands always with the moniker ” if we dont do this we are going to die…we are becoming more irrelevant….we are not going to make our annual pledge goals.” I read a quote in synthesis several weeks ago about how the church has prostituted itself…using the image from Hosea….” we have become the best prostitute, the holiest prostitute but one nonetheless….”…I keep wondering how the church would change if the people of God really believed that God was in charge of it and we stopped long enough to listen carefully and ask for wisdom, direction, and counsel. How wonderful would that be?

  82. Agatha Nolen on February 24, 2015 at 06:36

    Unfortunately, it’s me. I needed to get over feeling worthless unless I was busy and producing something. Accepting that God loves me when I am still is liberating.

    • Louise Howlett on February 24, 2015 at 07:56

      Really resonate with this- temptation to be busy to validate self….

  83. John David Spangler on February 24, 2015 at 06:35

    In her book, “A Grown-Up Lent—When Giving Up Chocolate Isn’t Enough”, the Revd. Joanna Leirerson made this observation in the meditation for Lent 1, Wednesday: “A grown-up Lenten fast that truly restores us to God and so to one another has less to do with giving up something and more to do with giving pause. A grown-up Lent takes that pause and puts it into action, giving up foods or practices or habits that are contrary to a beloved community of God.”. Though a regular reader of “Brother, Give Us a Word”, to-day was the first time that I “paused” to follow the Lenten series. Brother David’s meditation gives one all the reason to “pause”. I thank him and pray that merely taking part is a contribution to the “beloved community of God”. Giving up chocolate truly isn’t enough, “pausing” is the important aspect. Doing so,will make the chocolate even better. Brother David so wisely reminded us: “God’s liberation of people says that this type of rest is important. It’s important for the dignity of the person.”. Peace!

  84. Didi on February 24, 2015 at 06:30

    As I get closer to retirement I still feel that I must do the work of a 30-year-old, but my body won’t cooperate. So much of my feelings of self-worth are tied up in my work that I am constantly pushing myslef beyond my limits. Thank you Brothers for this lesson . God should be my only taskmaster, and He loves everything I do.

  85. Susan on February 24, 2015 at 06:29

    I sometimes feel that I work for a Pharaoh-like institution. My administrators say, “look after your mental health”. They tell us to balance “work/love/play”. But then they layer on tasks upon tasks, little by little, and do not provide the time to address them. We hear things like, “It should only take 10 minutes,” but that’s never the case. I work with people who will say, “I’m just not doing it,” or “Just write anything,” but I’m too much of a rule follower. Too conscientious for that! I guess that’s my personal taskmaster.

    • Lisa on February 24, 2015 at 10:14

      There can be value in learning the discipline of “good enough”. It can be a lifesaver and it can help us take on the perfectionism and high standards that become traps to themselves.

    • Jane on February 24, 2015 at 11:53

      I also worked for a Pharaoh like organization prior to my retirement. Workers were always being driven to do more and do it faster. And then were told both directly and indirectly that what was done wasn’t good enough. Work days got longer and longer. But since I was single and self supporting and getting closer and closer to retirement, looking for another job didn’t seem realistic, especially from a financial point of view. Now that I am retired and have some distance from my old job, I realize just how toxic a situation it was for everyone. I am now struggling to accept that I am worthy even though I’m no longer working. In a society that determines a person’s worth by what and how much they do, it is challenge.

  86. Jennifer on February 24, 2015 at 06:23

    Perfectionism and guilt – often feeling that I fall short as an employee, as a wife and mother, as a friend, as a church member, in my health, in my walk with God

    Control and frustration – feeling that I have to micromanage things, being reminded that I can’t

    A chronic medical condition – sometimes limiting, sometimes worry-inducing

    Social media – a tyrant of distraction and FOMO (fear of missing out)

    Negative news – we hear so much of it every day

    On a much more trivial level – the Candy Crush game! Oh what a pretty and addictive time-waster! I just deleted the app (for the second time, I must confess) and given it up for Lent and permanently!

    • Julie E on February 24, 2015 at 08:08

      Jennifer, minus the candy crush part, I could have written your post. These things are all so time consuming and take away from “just being”. I’ve finding even doing my Lenten disciplines are now becoming my task masters.

      • Gillian Guy on February 24, 2015 at 10:36

        Thank you both for your honesty. I find peace knowing that others share my same struggles.

  87. Nancy W. Del Borgo on February 24, 2015 at 06:05

    I am my own employer/employee. I must treat both with love and respect.

  88. Sarah Acland on February 24, 2015 at 05:47

    I can think of so many taskmasters that I would like to forward this talk to!
    But when it comes down to it my real taskmaster is myself.
    There is pressure to do rather than to be. To cross things off my list for a sense of achievement.
    Stopping that would also be an achievement.

    • Ann on March 14, 2015 at 12:00

      Your post presents the thought I was preparing to post. I am my own worst taskmaster. I am officially retired, but am committed to a volunteer position that requires about 16-18 hours/wk. I can do more at home, so add several hours to that until I am totally fatigued. I am working on living in an atmosphere of Enoughness regarding physical things. Perhaps I could apply “enoughness” to my approach to vocation.

  89. Roderic Brawn on February 24, 2015 at 05:46

    I am retired. My wife and I have sufficient resources to live on. That is due to the fact that where we live she was a teacher for more than forty years, and has a good pension. I really do not have to work outside of the home. I am a retired music-teacher. For a number of years I worked as an occasional teacher. I don’t have the pension my wife has, but we have enough. My taskmaster is the fact that I feel sometimes unworthy of our fortunate state. I still play the trumpet, and I sing in our Senior Choir at church. I am a good musician, yet I find fault with my musical achievements. I do as well as I can I think. Sometimes accepting the wonderful gifts I have would be better for me.

  90. M on February 24, 2015 at 05:22

    Taskmasters:the feelings/idea that I must do all the things expected of me. The feelings that I must set many goals at higher and higher levels. The feelings that I would have not accomplish much if these goals are not met.

    • m.o.b. on February 24, 2015 at 14:58

      I feel I understand this so well! I feel torn in many directions and driven by fear. My economic circumstances have become perilous in the past five years and it’s hard to set aside that fear of scarcity. We seem also to be a society driven to higher and higher levels of “goals.” My current employer chided me the other day for admitting that my goal was to have a full time job with benefits and that at my age I was not aspiring to go higher up the food chain if it meant giving up what little time and freedom I currently have. I’m not hiding this from anyone. This is the way I tell myself that I have worth outside of work and the thought of no longer striving but resting seems spiritually sane to me. Now if I can only live up to that!

  91. NA on February 24, 2015 at 05:07

    My worst taskmaster is me. I am self-employed, so the blame rests on my shoulders, not a boss. The sense of desperation that can come from working to build two businesses in the current economic climate factors in, pushing my responsibility to make it all work buttons. How do I liberate me from me? I’m not sure, but I am working on that, too.

  92. Muriel on February 24, 2015 at 04:47

    The tyranny of my own concepts and my own perceptions of my family obligations.( children over a certain should be independent) Once I accepted and realised that services performed for others as a privelege I have felt free and thankful that I can help others that are in need.I have learned and grown more from this and experienced untold joy .

  93. bob on February 24, 2015 at 02:46

    I have two part time jobs, and like many part timers feel an unreasonable expectation to perform a nearly whole time role in each. This expectation is, probably in the larger part, from within.

    I need to free myself from my own taskmaster that says that good works can only mean more works.

  94. Deborah on February 24, 2015 at 02:03

    I found this to be a really interesting question.
    This course has begun to help me realise that my taskmasters are ‘want’, ‘ego’and rebellion’.
    I’m very blessed (as I have just realised) with work that doesn’t demand 24/7, where I am surrounded by supportive and friendly people…….and yet I was pulling against it, resenting the time I had to give to work. God has shown me over the last few days just how blessed I am. God has also shown me that I need to approach my work with ‘intentionality’ in order to be free from the taskmaster of ‘rebellion’ in particular.
    I thank God for this fabulous Lenten group which is teaching me ( and I guess MANY others) so much and I thank the brothers for leading us all in it.

  95. Paul on February 23, 2015 at 23:29

    As a retired person, I am fortunate not to have to work for an employer, though I can remember times when the dilemma described in this instalment was fierce and very difficult to solve. Nowadays, I suppose my “taskmaster” is Email. I enjoy corresponding with a number of friends, but I am trying to break out of feeling an obligation to respond to every single little thing people choose to send to me. Sometimes that involves telling a person that I am feeling besieged (in a nice way), and they always understand and slow down. I’m getting better at just letting messages go by … eventually they lose their urgency and life goes on! A particular struggle has been to transition from a habit of over-responding to appeals for my time, my money, my vote, my letter to a government representative. To over-respond to these demands is to let others set one’s priorities, and I am learning to say “No” and simply delete many messages. As for Facebook … I use it sparingly, mainly to read message from others. I have no wish to become its slave. Twitter I will NEVER do!

    • Walter Edgar on February 24, 2015 at 09:36

      I, too, am a retiree and have had difficulty saying NO to friends asking for assistance with various good causes. “After all,” they say, “You’ve got lots of time.” Well, yes and no. Some days I look at my calendar and see what I’ve scheduled myself for–and promise myself, “No more.” It’s not easy to do, because sometimes folks get miffed. But, then I’m learning that it is their problem–not mine. It is my time–and my family’s–not theirs.

      • David Bowring on February 24, 2015 at 12:11

        Along with this goes fear of rejection by people who are important to me.

    • Clare Keller on February 24, 2015 at 13:19

      Paul, you express in detail one way in which I have started to free myself from a deeper taskmaster – one who demands thoroughness, or perfection in all things.

    • Randy Ruffin on February 24, 2015 at 17:36

      I can identify very much with email as a taskmaster and, following on yesterday’s message, need to put a limit on the time I spend – set a time to stop. I also find that I may have priorities for my day that seemed “guided” in my quiet time, but which get set aside when an urgent request comes in from a friend to help edit something, with a deadline. I need to be sure it’s the right thing to do. I’m a man (person) pleaser at heart and hate saying no.

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