ISSUE No.1 | SEPTEMBER 2020
Welcome to the inaugural issue of CULTIVARE, a monthly field guide for life and faith, brought to you by TEND. Each month we explore a specific “field” – a topic or theme through which we seek to cultivate contemplation, engagement, and deeper understanding. Our guiding questions are:
What are you cultivating in your life?
What fruit do you want your life to bear?
Each issue of CULTIVARE is structured into three parts:
Cultivate: Explores a specific “Field” or facet of life, and offers questions to unearth and challenge our held perspective; along with concise kernels of truth which we call “Seeds.”
Irrigate: Explores the ways we nurture our understanding, which varies from individual to individual. Therefore we offer six means of irrigation: Art, Poetry, Profile, Film, Essay, and Books.
Germinate: Explores practical ways to become more fruitful and free in our lives.
Our name, CULTIVARE, in Spanish means “I will cultivate.” And we hope each issue of our field guide will encourage you to do just that – cultivate new thoughts, actions, faith, hope, and fruitful living. We invite you to dig in and DIG DEEP!
For we are partners working together for God, and you are God's field.
(I Corinthians 3:9)
To honor and commemorate Labor Day we explore the “field” of work. Let’s face it, work occupies a lot of our time and lives. Work can be enjoyable, or work can be frustrating. Work can be fruitful, but work can also seem futile. Some work finds us in the “flow.” Other work finds us hitting our head against a wall. We can work for a paycheck, or work can be voluntary. Work feeds our families. There is also work that feeds our souls.
In this season of Covid-19, our feelings about work can get even more complicated. For some, work has disappeared leaving us feeling abandoned and angry. For others, work has diminished leaving us questioning and seeking new opportunities. For others, carefully constructed boundaries between work and home have collapsed, and they find themselves exceeding their ability to “be creative.” Still for others, meaningful, purposeful work has long been a mystery unsolved.
As you contemplate this season of your work, this season of your life, what questions emerge for you about your work and life? What feelings about work may be buried beneath disappointment, dejection, and disconnection? We encourage you to take some time to contemplate and engage with the following questions, designed to unearth deeper understanding, and then discuss your responses with trusted others (or a member of TEND’s team).
How can I derive greater joy and freedom in my work?
How do I measure success in my work?
How can I experience greater fruitfulness in my life?
What do I need to thrive in my work?
What is the work that I love to do?
What is the unique way in which I love to work?
Who are the people I love to work around?
What is God’s specific calling for me?
To encourage you, included in this issue of CULTIVARE are a variety of individuals who have found meaning and purpose in their work. A gifted photographer who impacted millions with her captured images. A poet who prompts us to consider how our work might be a pilgrimage to a deeper understanding of our true identity. Two cardiatric researchers who paved the path toward greater understanding of the workings of the human heart and navigated systemic racism in route. A judge who works for justice by exercising mercy. And an actor, known to millions, who encourages all to “Put God first.”
We invite you to unearth deeper understanding about your work as you cultivate fresh insight and fertile hope.
"Let the favor of the Lord our God be upon us, and establish the work of
our hands upon us; yes, establish the work of our hands!" Psalm 90:17
“And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap,
if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9
A handful of quotes to contemplate and cultivate into your life
Your profession is not what brings home your weekly paycheck, your profession is what you're put here on earth to do, with such passion and such intensity that it becomes spiritual in calling. (Vincent Van Gogh)
I cannot answer the question, ‘What ought I to do?’ unless I first answer the question, ‘Of which story am I a part?’ (Alisdair MacIntyre)
Inspiration usually comes during work, rather than before it.” (Madeleine L’Engle)
Squandering our gifts brings distress to our lives. As it turns out, it’s not merely benign or ‘too bad’ if we don’t use the gifts that we’ve been given; we pay for it with our emotional and physical well-being. When we don’t use our talents to cultivate meaningful work, we struggle. We feel disconnected and weighted down by feelings of emptiness, frustration, resentment, shame, disappointment, fear, and even grief. (Brene Brown)
No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence. (Martin Luther King, Jr.)
You have to be really aware of the difference between fruitfulness and success because the world is always talking to you about your success. Society keeps asking you: “Show me your trophies. Show me, how many books have you written? Show me, how many games did you win? Show me, how much money did you make? Show me. . . .” And there is nothing wrong with any of that. I am saying that finally that’s not the question. The question is: “Are you going to bear fruit?” And the amazing thing is that our fruitfulness comes out of our vulnerability and not just out of our power. Actually it comes out of our powerlessness. If the ground wants to be fruitful, you have to break it open a little bit. The hard ground cannot bear fruit; it has to be raked open. And the mystery is that our illness and our weakness and our many ways of dying are often the ways that we get in touch with our vulnerabilities. You and I have to trust that they will allow us to be more fruitful if lived faithfully. Precisely where we are weakest and often most broken and most needy, precisely there can be the ground of our fruitfulness. (Henri Nouwen)
Our artist of the month is photographer Dorthea Lange.
Photo above: Carrot pullers from Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Arkansas and Mexico. California, February 1937
While the Great Depression occurred 90 years ago, long before most of us were living, what images we have of those heart-wrenching times are often due to the work of one woman – photographer Dorthea Lange. In the early 1930’s Lange worked for the US Farm Security Administration as well as the US Resettlement Administration documenting the experience of migrant farm workers, the working poor, and the unemployed. Her work has been described as “drawing beauty out of desolation.” Lange’s childhood pain and loss created in her a life-lens colored with compassion. She was inducted into the International Photography Hall of Fame and Museum in 1984. To learn more about Lange’s life and work, please check out their tribute here.
Dorothea Lange, "Pea harvest. Family at work. Nipomo, California," 1937. | Photo: Library of Congress, Prints & Photographs Division, FSA/OWI Collection, [LC-DIG-fsa-8b31824]
“The camera is an instrument that teaches people how to see without a camera.”
— Dorthea Lange
“Photography takes an instant out of time, altering life by holding it still.”
— Dorthea Lange
by Rainer Maria Rilke
(translated by Joanna Macy & Anita Barrows)
This laboring of ours with all that remains undone,
as if still bound to it,
is like the lumbering gait of the swan.
And then our dying—releasing ourselves
from the very ground on which we stood—
is like the way he hesitantly lowers himself
into the water. It gently receives him,
and, gladly yielding, flows back beneath him,
as wave follows wave,
while he, now wholly serene and sure,
with regal composure,
allows himself to glide.
Commenting on Rilke’s The Swan
Do you know that the antidote to exhaustion is not necessarily rest?
The antidote to exhaustion is wholeheartedness.
You are so tired through and through because a good half of what you do has nothing to do with your true powers, or the place you have reached in your life. You need something to which you can give your full powers. You know what that is; I don’t have to tell you.
You are like Rilke’s Swan in his awkward waddling across the ground; the swan doesn’t cure his awkwardness by beating himself on the back, by moving faster, or by trying to organize himself better. He does it by moving toward the elemental water where he belongs. It is the simple contact with the water that gives him grace and presence. You only have to touch the elemental waters in your own life, and it will transform everything. But you have to let yourself down into those waters from the ground on which you stand, and that can be hard.
You must do something heartfelt, and you must do it soon. Let go of all this effort, and let yourself down, however awkwardly, into the waters of the work you want for yourself.
*From: Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity
Denzel Washington has been a working actor for four decades. He is a two-time Academy Award winner (he’s been nominated nine times). In 2019 he was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Film Institute (AFI). During his career he has portrayed a wide-variety of individuals in diverse fields of work. A soldier in Glory. A football coach in Remember the Titans. A police officer in Training Day. A professor in The Great Debaters. A lawyer in Roman J. Israel, Esq.
Within Hollywood Washington is known as a hard worker, a man wholly committed to his craft and to bringing out the best in his coworkers. He is known for instilling hard work in others. He is known for living a faith-filled life in front of, behind, and beyond the camera. He has been married to Pauletta for 40 years. He is committed to his family and community.
What many may be unaware of is that Washington’s work has been fueled by a deep faith. He has an active prayer life and is active in his local church. He is known throughout Southern California (and beyond) for his compassion, giving spirit, and philanthropic engagement. In the light of the recent and heartbreaking death of actor Chadwick Boseman, it was revealed that Washington was a mentor and supporter of Boseman, including financially paying for acting classes to encourage and enrich Boseman’s craft. One person commented that in Washington’s presence, “I always felt empowered around him.” Affirming words for a man known for his mentoring and commitment to others.
In this nine (9) minute video, viewers gets a fuller picture of Washington and of the faith that has anchored him, guided him, and empowers his work and witness.
Each month we recommend films focused on our theme;
usually one Film Short and one Feature or Documentary Film.
Here Comes the Judge: CBS Sunday Morning episode
In this documentary film short, a North Carolina judge spends the night in jail with the man he sentenced, exercising mercy and compassion as a means of justice. Judge Lou Olivera’s work is an embodiment of the words found in Micah 6:8 He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.
Something the Lord Made (2004)
Director: Joseph Sargent
The true story of pioneer heart surgeons Dr. Alfred Blalock and Dr. Vivien Thomas
Named a 2004 Film of the Year by the American Film Institute: “Something the Lord Made” is a revelation. In a world where so much information is available at our fingertips, this HBO original movie (available on DVD and many streaming sites) is a spectacular example of how the medium can find an unknown story and share it with millions of people in a single night. With seasoned veteran director Joseph Sargent at the helm, and outstanding performances by Mos Def (Vivien Thomas) and Alan Rickman (Alfred Blalock), this bittersweet story is an important tool to highlight the purposefulness of work and for America as it continues to search for a public vocabulary to discuss issues of race. (AFI)
Film Background: The story of a man who in life avoided the limelight, Vivien Thomas remained virtually unknown outside the circle of the Johns Hopkins surgeons he trained. Thomas' story was first brought to public attention by Washington writer Katie McCabe, who learned of his work with Alfred Blalock on the day of Thomas’ death in a 1985 interview with a prominent Washington, D.C. surgeon who described Thomas as "an absolute legend." McCabe's 1989 Washingtonian magazine article on Thomas, "Like Something the Lord Made", generated widespread interest in the story and inspired the making of a 2003 public television documentary on Thomas and Blalock, "Partners of the Heart." A Washington, D.C. dentist, Dr. Irving Sorkin, discovered McCabe's article and brought it to Hollywood, where it was developed into the film. (Wikipedia)
Do you have a sense of purpose in your work?
Do you find your work fulfilling?
Dr. Anne Bradley of the Institute for Faith, Work, and Economics addresses the question: How do we satisfy our hunger for meaningful work? You can learn more about her insights and suggestions by reading her short article here.
Each month we recommend a book focused on our theme.
Crossing the Unknown Sea: Work as a Pilgrimage of Identity
While there are many notable and helpful books on vocation, calling, and work, there are relatively few written by modern-day poets. In this extraordinary exploration of work, poet David Whyte reflects on his personal and professional journey from serving as a naturalist guide on the Galapagos Islands, to leading anthropological and natural history expeditions in the Andes, Amazon, and Himalaya, to being a full-time poet. Whyte encourages readers to take risks at work that will enhance their personal growth, and shows how burnout can actually be beneficial and used to renew professional interest. He asserts that too many people blindly trudge through a mediocre work life because so many “busy” tasks prevent significant reflection and analysis of job satisfaction. People often turn to spiritual practice or faith to nurture their souls, but overlook how work can actually be an opportunity for discovery and growth.
Excerpts to cultivate engagement:
Work means application, explication, expectation. There is almost no life a human being can construct for themselves where they are not wrestling with something difficult, something that takes a modicum of work. The only possibility seems to be the ability of human beings to choose good work. At its simplest, good work is work that makes sense, and that grants sense and meaning to the one who is doing it and to those affected by it. (13)
The severest test of work today is not of our strategies but of our imaginations and identities. For a human being, finding good work and doing good work is one of the ultimate ways of making a break for freedom. In order to find that freedom in the midst of the complex world of work, we need to cultivate simpler, more elemental identities truer to the template of our natures. (60)
Life is too difficult to survive without tenacity and perseverance, and we all hold an unbroken thread of survivorship by the very fact that we are here, the latest in a very long line of survivors. Some of our ancestors were dogged, silent, and inarticulate in their holding on, some courageously outspoken, but imagine their disappointment in each of us, looking from the perspective of the particular heavens they inhabit, when we do not take another step for them. When we do not make a frontier of our own lives. If they were quiet in their own lives, they must want us to speak out; if they were loud and vociferous, they must want us to be more tempered and wiser with the fire, but none of them, surely, can stomach our willingness to hide ourselves in a bland compliance to powers or careers to which we have made ourselves slaves. (93)
Once we have built our work and our contribution around our natural gifts, we have joined a great gravitational river where the current is flowing in the direction we wish to travel. Longing is a deep current of gravity that we perceive will take us home, or to a new home, and being caught in that gravitational field is the sense we have of belonging. (138)
The pivotal questions to ask ourselves in the mirror every morning, successful or no, are deep, uncompromising ones of personal identity. How much freedom of movement do we find now in our work, whatever the outward trappings? How much of the original person is there? Without these core questions, our great loves can turn slowly and invisibly into imprisoning forces. “I have become everything I hate,” an executive once told me in the cafeteria of a large company, “yet I am doing exactly what I have always wanted to do.” In his eyes I saw that he had glimpsed enormous impersonal forces for which he had no language and which, unawares, had corrupted his work, his sense of freedom, and his sense of self. (155)
Practical suggestions to help you go deeper into our theme
1. CELEBRATING LABOR DAY: How do you go about celebrating Labor Day? Other than a day free from work, what traditions do you observe for the holiday? If you are like many people, they often have no meaningful traditions connected to the holiday. We suggest you create a new one! To honor individuals in your life and community whose work you find helpful, we encourage you to write an email, text, or letter, and express gratitude for the work those individuals routinely do for you. For a start, begin with two or three people you would like to thank. This could be your mail carrier, your hair stylist, your teacher, your doctor, your physical therapist, your mechanic. Consider an author or artist whose work encourages or enriches your life. Think of someone you don’t normally thank for their work. Perhaps you don’t even know their name. But you know their work is meaningful and important to you. Take a few moments this Labor Day or sometime this month and convey your gratitude to them.
2. INVITATION TO REST: For a variety of reasons, you may feel tired or exhausted. Work can be draining particularly if we don’t get needed breaks and rest. In order to increase the fruitfulness of your work, we encourage you to take steps to put into action these sage words of the ancient Roman poet Ovid: “Take rest. A field that has rested gives a bountiful crop.”
3. PICK YOUR OWN FRUIT: Labor Day coincides with the concluding days of many harvests. Get out in an actual field and experience the fertile earth beneath your feet. Consider picking your own fruit and vegetables at a farm near you. Here is a link to the website Pickyourown.org to find locations near you.
But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.
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Images used in order of appearance:
1. FIELD: The Veteran in the Field, Winslow Homer, 1865
2. SEEDS: Watsonville, Jay Mercado (undated). https://www.jaymercado.com/
3. ART: Carrot Pullers, Dorthea Lange, February 1937
4. POETRY: Office in a Small City, Edward Hopper, 1953
5. PROFILE: The Floor-Scrapers, Gustave Caillebotte, 1876
6. FILM: The Optician, Norman Rockwell, Saturday Evening Post, May 19, 1956
7. ESSAY: The Bobbin Girl, Winslow Homer, 1871
8. BOOKS: Panel from America Today, Thomas Hart Benton, 1930’s mural
9. DIG DEEPER: The Bauxite Mines, Julius Woeltz, 1942
10. ROOTED: Barn Raising, Ella Gardner, 1988-89
TEAM CULTIVARE: Duane Grobman (Editor), Lori Andrews, Billy Brummel, Ben Hunter, Eugene Kim, Jason Miller, Jason Pearson (Design: Pearpod.com)