Good Work

We were made to do meaningful work well.
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What, then, do we do with a category of work that has no significance or importance beyond providing employment?
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I would love to hear what you think about this topic as I write about it over at Embracing Grace (http://embracinggrace.net/2013/10/good-work/).  Will you join me?

In Which I Hate

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I see bombs going off, clouds of fire rising over a town, and I hate the brokenness of this world.  
I see women devalued and shamed, children murdered, and I hate the pain of life that can so easily be weighed down with darkness.
I see a sermon topic of parenting after divorce and I hate this sin-disease infecting all hearts which leads to the necessity of such a lesson.
I see my girls’ faces after I have yelled ugliness and I hate the struggle that wars inside of me.
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I want this all to end. I want our world and our hearts to be healed and made perfect.
Yet I think about Joseph and about Daniel, stories that tell about ugly, horrible things that turn out to be part of God’s overarching, glorious plan.
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If I could, I would convince God that He should come back right now and make everything right again.
Yet deep down, I know that God does have purposes and He does have plans, and I trust what He is about.
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Sometimes, though, it is difficult to raise my eyes above the fray. I hate this sin that has broken our hearts and our world with such passion that it is difficult to look away.
My heart is divided between hope and despair.
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What do I do?
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I could sit and fix my eyes on the ugly squalor of the sin and brokenness and fall quickly into despondency.
Or.
I could stand and fix my eyes on Him who has already begun the healing by His blood.
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I could raise my hands in awe of One who could change all with a word and yet allows us, instead, to help in the restoration.
I could ask God’s Spirit to show me ways to hasten the healing of our world.
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So I open my arms and hold my family close. I roll up my sleeves and look for ways to work.
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Just as these did:
 
(click on the photograph to read about some who responded to horror with courageous mercy)

Don’t Follow Your Heart














When my grandparents were young, during World War II, during the age of Nazi Germany and the Japanese Empire, people were told that they should have the courage to stand up for what is right.


These days, I hear a lot of people say that we should all have the courage to follow our hearts.

After all, something done spontaneously has more validity, right? Something that comes from the heart means more than something that took a lot of effort?

I hear this from Christians, as well as from the secular world. We are told to take a risk, to have the courage to follow our hearts, our passions, our dreams. We are told that God uses our passions for His glory, so we should take financial and emotional risks, even risks to our family, to do what we are passionate about.

This is what many are taught to believe that Jesus came to model and teach: that “to thine own self be true” is the central goal and task of every man.



This actually sounds a bit like Gnosticism, a philosophy that John spoke out against in the New Testament. 

Although an ancient philosophy, see if this sounds familiar today: There is a spark of light hidden in us underneath layers of social and cultural conditioning. Whatever we most truly find within ourselves is right. My heart tells me how things truly are and I must go with my heart.

May I please decry the idea that something done spontaneously has automatic validation while something that is done while following orders or after careful reflection is less valuable or even hypocritical? Thinking carefully about a course of action does not mean that you are being false to yourself. 

This all reminds me of the romantic idea of art vs what art really is. The romantic says that art should be effortless, that it should just flow from your heart and soul. The true artist, whether visual arts, music, dance, writing, or any other genre, knows how much hard work and practice it takes to get to the point of seeming effortless. 



Perhaps it takes more courage to stick with the hard task, to continue working to provide for your family, to practice patience and self-control every single day than it does to just throw it all away and follow your heart’s desire.

Then He said to them all: “If anyone would come after Me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” ~ Luke 9.23

In After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters (you will be hearing more from this book in coming weeks!), N.T. Wright says that following your heart

tries to get in advance, and without paying the true price, what virtue offers further down the road, and at the cost of genuine moral thought, decision, and effort.

I am not suggesting that what you do only has merit if it is dull and drudging work or that doing what you love is wrong. Yes, God does use our gifts and talents. Yes, sometimes God does call us to do something crazy, something that our world would call foolish.



What I am suggesting is that we should test what is in our hearts before we blindly follow. We should spend time with God, seeking to know what He wants rather than assuming that what is in our hearts is right. 



I don’t know about you, but my own heart can be incredibly fickle.

A person may think their own ways are right, but the LORD weighs the heart. ~ Prov. 21.2

Perhaps doing only what we love is not always the godly path. More often than not, it seems that the godly path is the harder road to follow.

I promise you, though, it is well worth the work and effort. 

Just like a beautiful piece of art.



art credit: Shakespeare playbill; Vincent van Gogh’s The Starry Night