Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Work and Gratitude

Work. It's a hot topic in politics and urban development. In our offices and living rooms. We need more jobs! Why the high unemployment rate? Do something about it, politicians! In our little circles of conversation in what we deem the "underserved" neighborhood: How do we break through entitlement to government assistance? What about the history we the "privileged" are a part of, the ones with the right parents, right skin color, or just plain lucky enough to get the right education to land us the right job?

How do we boost productivity? What can we squeeze out of workers without having to shell out more money? And finally at home, how can we resist the so-called American Dream to work more to earn more to buy more only to work more?


But I am reading this great book that has me asking, "How can I love well while I work well?" and "How do I welcome people into my life, my workspace, my days?"

Christine D. Pohl, in this book Living Into Community, explores practices that sustain communities. One of these practices is gratitude, often missed amidst our preoccupation with efficiency, accomplishment, etc.:

Our busyness is often tied to working very hard so that what we have
or receive does not seem like a gift. Our desire for "more" feeds our busyness,
whether in work environments or in our efforts to hold on to a last bit of vacation.
.... Our emphasis on accomplishments and efficiency makes us wary 
about pausing to give attention to the gifts we easy take for granted. 
 (Pohl, Living Into Community, p. 30)

Though I can easily criticize someone else for their sense of entitlement to benefits they did not earn, did not work for, do I sail through my days on the clock, sans gratitude, just because I'm earning it? Is each transaction in my workplace owed to me because I earned it, because I'm getting paid? 

Or can I still be grateful for the person who takes 10 extra minutes to walk me through a task that otherwise I would have stumbled through? Did they owe that to me, or can I learn to be deeply grateful for them?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Ash Wednesday: deletions and additions

Tell me I’m not good enough.  Tell me I’m dying.  
Tell me the treatment is disturbing and drastic, that it will take up all of my time. 
Tell me I’ll have to give up lots of things I like and take up other things I hate.  
Tell me it’s worth it.

Tell me I need Jesus in the worst possible way. 
(from the Catholic World Report; click here to read full article)

Today, I will walk into the chapel, somber, quiet. Today, I will be asked to look inward, recognize and name my sins. I'll be led down a path of repentance. I'll be marked with ashes, reminded that from dust I came, and to dust I will return. Today is Ash Wednesday.

Each year I give up something or multiple things. Maybe it's Facebook; maybe it's a certain type of food. Maybe it's eating out. I choose to give up something that consumes too much time or attention. 

But I also seek out something to add to my life, something to enrich my time, my thoughts. Maybe I study a particular book of the Bible. Maybe I spend time at a certain quiet, beautiful place. Maybe I give myself a particular healthy practice to live out - eating nourishing food, reading, writing letters. 

All of this, though, is outward and is only as good as the inward changes. Will I courageously take this season to examine my impatient ways, ungratefulness, my search for something better? Will I love more deeply, act more obediently, throw off the sin that so easily entangles?

Will I know more truly that "I need Jesus in the worst possible way"?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Ms. Ueland's Thoughts on Outlines

I'm finishing up a book by Brenda Ueland, If You Want to Write, and let me tell you: it isn't your average writing book. I don't even know what your average writing book is like, but I'm pretty sure this isn't it.

She's sassy, direct, and if you read brief bits of biography about her online, you connect the dots from her writing that this might have something to do with her multiple divorces. Sass to the max.

But it's also a good read. An easy read. Freeing, in a lot of ways. I believe I can be a writer. I believe I am a writer.

Here's what she has to say in response to the question of writing an outline for her book, having a plan:

"No, I wouldn't think of planning the book before I write it. You write, and 
plan it afterwards. You write it first because every word must come
out with freedom, and with meaning because you think it is so and want to tell it. 
If this is done the book will be alive.
I don't mean that it will be successful. It may be alive to only ten people.
But to those ten at least it will be alive. It will speak to them. It will help to free them.
(pg. 168, If You Want to Write)