Places to Find Strength

To add more of an answer to your question, when you take off your red and blue power rings, you’ll still be strong.  Your strength doesn’t come from plastic pieces melded together in unseen factories.  Your strength has traveled a much longer distance to reach you.

Your strength comes from more people than you’ll meet because you were loved before you were conceived, loved by church people of all colors, loved by relatives around the world, loved by people who passed into eternity before they talked to you, loved by gift-givers who we thanked but whose generosity has rolled into the long sustained gift that is your life.

Your strength comes from your aunts and uncles who will give and have given their energies for you and for your cousins and who have been good parents, even to you, and who have been counselors and aides and supports and anchors for you already.  Use up the time they spend with you and relish their spoiling, open, broad care.

Your strength comes from your mother who has thrived and triumphed through and after hardships, injustice, great and difficult choices to become the splendid champion she is.  Ask her about them and close your lips to listen.

Your strength comes from your grandparents; one you don’t remember, except through our pictures and our stories; one you bring up from time to time, when you ask about sickness and death and heaven; and two you know and love and hug and see.  All of them have more to teach you than you can learn.  Find every way to be their student.

Your strength comes from great-grandparents who made music, who produced crops, who wandered over more acres than you’ll ever count, who gave hard, who had many children and watched them live and bear their own children and, some of them, die.  They wanted a beautiful future for you even though they couldn’t touch you and every act of submission and toil and business and production had seeds of grace for you in it.

Your strength comes from great-great-grandparents who sang spirituals in fields they didn’t own and worked day-long lives that collected into decades of labor that bore no capital or income or appreciation because their world was decorated in corruption of the deepest kind.  But there was so much more to them than their taken wages and taken days.  They, too, saw far into the dark ahead of their futures and they saw you and they worked and suffered and enjoyed and ate and slept and tried so that you would have all those abilities within you too.


Slow But Productive Work

Have you ever thought about how long it takes to accomplish what you spend your days doing?  I met with a media PR person and an architect the other day.  He’s in a supervisory role at work and he is new to parenting.  His wife, new to parenting as well, works to promote the events of a film center in Chicago.   Both of them spend a lot of time with their son and in their jobs.

And it occurs to me that people like my meeting friends–including me–have work we’re doing that takes a while to complete.  Does that make sense?  Whether planning for an event, reviewing building plans, or mentoring a staff person, these things take more than one moment.  They take a series of moments, meetings, and interactions.  It’s slow work.

Writing, teaching, ministry, cleaning, fathering–these are all slow jobs.  And slow work takes time to complete and time to appreciate.

I read this in an email newsletter from Preaching Today, and it feels right for preachers and appropriate for people doing other slow work too:

Last week I talked to a pastor who nearly quit during his fifth year at Church ABC. He wanted to quit, the church wanted him to quit, but for some reason he hung in there. Now he’s in his 18th year at the same church and his preaching ministry has finally hit a sweet spot.

My point is not that you should always stick it out. My point is that deep, effective, Spirit-anointed preaching is slow work. It takes time to build trust. It takes time to hone your craft. It takes time to study a biblical text. It takes time to know your people and your cultural context. So, preacher, I urge you to accept this slow work of God. Don’t be in a hurry to change the world with one amazing sermon or one flashy sermon series. Learn the art of slow preaching, long-haul preaching, week after week preaching. It will bear more fruit than you could ever imagine.

I hope you get a glimpse that your work, whatever it is, is fruitful.  Not pointless but productive.  And I hope you do it as well as you can.

Writing Prompt: You Must Know…

I’m behind some very personal goals.  Since last week I’ve been under the very good weather in our city.  It feels like I’ve had too much to do at my church.  I’m ending a semester at Garrett-Evangelical.  Trying to fight back to my clearest head, I’ve looked at my work in progress and heard it calling for attention.A Gift

I’m in front of a few deadlines with work from my secondary lives.  So I’m a week or two away from turning myself to the strong but patient voice of my manuscript.  I’m looking forward it.  I got a nudge last week in the form of feedback, and I’ve been thinking of it since I read the email.  I’m turning things over in my mind, changing and cutting and keeping and guessing and imagining.

Tonight, after Bryce was in bed, after throwing a chicken in the oven for Dawn’s post-class snack, I fell into the chair.  Energy gone, I looked over facebook, opened my inbox, and started planning details of tomorrow.  I wanted to plan to write, but it won’t be there.  So instead, I searched through one of my folders, looking for another prompt, something that would remind me of why I write even though I wouldn’t be able to write.  I found something better.  I found a compliment.  A woman had read one of my first novel-length manuscripts, the story that is very much present but now gone.  I read her email to me.

Among her first words was this: Your manuscript is a treasure…You must know that!

Years sit between me and the time I first got this message.  It was from a published novelist who became a friend for a time.  I read it last night to remind me of the treasure at my fingertips.  Whether or not that story or the current story gets couched between a publisher’s covers, there are things I must know.  Those are the things that will bring me back to the work in progress.  I hope you have things worth remembering about your work, be it writing or otherwise.