Why the Christian Must Model Slow


I used to live in a little cabin in the woods. Just me. I would walk there after quitting time, cook my meal for one, hand clean and dry my dishes, and settle in for the evening.

That simple housework amid solitude proved to be some of the holiest times I’ve experienced in my life. To this day, I can think of few mountaintop experiences with God that matched the simple joy of making food and cleaning up afterward in His presence. It was slow work, never hurried. While it asked for concentration on the task, I never felt overwhlemed. I did, however, feel holiness in the moment.

Something in those basic, careful actions in a quiet cabin in the woods centered me on God. He was there. Always. I could feel Him connecting with me in my doing.

I don’t believe most people today ever experience that kind of focused yet unhurried connection with God in their work. It’s one reason why so many people see their jobs as soul-inhibiting. Paycheck, yes. Personal meaning, no.

Much has been written concerning the recent New York Times piece on the frenetic atmosphere at Amazon. Frankly, I think many people will wonder at the singling out of Amazon, given how blender-like corporate life has become for everyone.

People in a blenderWhat’s the most commonly used phrase in job postings today? I’ll cast my lot for fast-paced environment. It’s ubiquitous, a badge of corporate honor. Businesses stopped pushing the blender’s Stir button and progressed with boasting to Liquify.

What’s being “liquified” is people.

Let’s get real here: Fast-paced environment most likely expresses itself as a needlessly disorganized workplace that is understaffed and poorly managed at all levels due to horrendous forecasting and unrealistic expectations. Companies use that phrase with pride when they should instead be soberly calling it failure and correcting it.

Yes, I went there.

I’m not alone, though, as the NYT Amazon article and this one, “Work Hard, Live Well,” show us. Our harried work lives are getting noticed as a negative. Finally.

Beyond our jobs, the general pace of life is killing us as well. Too much incoming data to process. Too many commitments. Too much striving to stay on top. Too much structure to maintain. Too much need to control. Too much.

We can’t live in a perpetual state of being overwhelmed and still maintain our mental and physical health. It’s time to stop lying to ourselves about what we can and cannot do.

We were not created by God to be little flesh-bundles of process optimization. Being counts as much, or more, than doing.

The blur that is our daily existence leaves no room for God. This lie that we can cram an entire day’s spirituality into a 15-minute quiet time is just that: a lie. And it always has been, despite whatever some nationally recognized pastor, spiritual leader, Christian author, or life coach says.

Why? Because God is to be found in EVERY moment. In something as basic as cooking dinner for one. Or in handwashing the dishes.

Julie, a friend and essayist in the vein of Annie Dillard, rebooted her Lone Prairie site and elected to hand code the HTML and CSS. Most would say that’s the hard way.

But some would contend it’s the way God connects with us in our work. It’s slow. It may even be tedious. Yet I think that pulling back from the most optimized, GTD-approved way is how we can reconnect with the holiness of our professions. It’s how we can slow down enough to find not only ourselves but God.

If we Christians are not the people who stay off the dance floor when the world says mambo or who cannot laugh in the face of demanded mourning, who will?

Christians are supposed to be the most countercultural of all people, yet more often than not, we American Christians, through a grace-less misunderstanding of responsibility, instead lead the parade toward dis-ease.

Slowing down enough to find God in more than just the “holy moments” but in ALL of the day will cost us. It must.

If lost people are going to find God, we Christians must be the examples of how to connect with Him. If we’re racing around like headless chickens, we will have no time for perception and observation, either of the natural world which God created or of the spiritual one, where He is found. Neither will we have time to process the crucial connections between the two, where wisdom dwells. We will instead become blind guides. There won’t be any counterculture left, only concession to the deaf and dumb spirits of the age.

“I’ll rest when I’m dead” is no statement of integrity but of stupidity. Christian, find ways to slow down or risk losing everything that truly matters.

Once off the highway and on the backroads, we’ll find God on the curves, near that spot with the stunning vista. Take time to stand there and breathe. That’s where redemption abides.

Fallen-through-the-Cracks People and the Church


Recently, Slate skewered the favored mantra of people who claim business success for themselves and therefore want you to know their secrets: “Do what you love. Love what you do.”

In “In the Name of Love,” Miya Tokumitsu notes how well this works for those chosen few who are not working an assembly line in Kokomo. As for those factory workers, the question of loving what they do looms large.

Not everyone gets a corner office. Sometimes, the destination is the basement mail room.

Nothing makes me ponder the vicissitudes of life more than that person who is one day an active presence in a church and then is gone.

In my own Christian experience, the following example people eventually fall through the cracks of our church programming:

FallingThe family with the unruly special needs child, the kid that hoots and hollers sometimes during a quiet Sunday meeting. That harried mom and dad who got one too many stares one Sunday and then weren’t there the next to receive more.

The guys who didn’t grab the brass ring. Often, they seem to be general workmen, “handymen” as it were. They did the odd job, but didn’t do it often enough. One week they are in church, and the next they are gone.

The divorced, diabetic, unemployed mother with the teenage daughter that can’t seem to stop having illegitimate kids. The whole melange lives in a trailer on the outskirts of town, and they come to church now and then, until they get one too many looks or lectures.

The healthy guy who one day stops being so healthy due to the predations of a chronic illness. He used to sit in that back pew near the windows. One Sunday, he was there, and now he’s not.

The cute single gal who gets the dark thoughts that descend on her at random, when her pretty face becomes a mask, and no one knows just what to say. Whatever happened to her? You remember her, don’t you?

I remember.

I wish I knew what happened to these people and why it may be their presence no longer darkens the nave.

I also wonder if the following is more true of them than of the people they leave behind:

Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…
—2 Timothy 3:12 ESV

We don’t think of the fallen-through-the-cracks people as desiring to live a godly life in Christ Jesus, do we?

But don’t they? In fact, could it be they may have wanted that more than the folks with whom they may have once shared a pew?

Do we think of them as persecuted?

And did we become the persecutors?

There’s a success idol in the Church today. We have our own forms of “do what you love and love what you do.” We find spiritual ways to take our own successes and to project them onto others and ask why that person or persons is not duplicating our achievements. How is it they are still in the basement and not in the corner office? Must be sin in their life. They must be hiding something. Or they’re lazy. Maybe they don’t read their Bible enough.

A group of men had an encounter with a fallen-through-the-cracks person:

As he passed by, [Jesus] saw a man blind from birth. And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. We must work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming, when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world.”
—John 9:1-5 ESV

That the works of God might be displayed in the lives of the fallen-through-the-cracks people.

We must work the works of the One who sent us.

Night is coming.

But the Light is still here. For now. Among us. In us.

Sadly, some of us are the ones doing the pushing that results in the fall through the cracks for someone else, someone who desperately didn’t want to fall. We must stop making the problem worse.

Instead, our task is to grab onto falling people and set them on their feet again.

The Church and the Employment Dispossessed


Ageism & employmentIf 2013 was marked by any one trend, it was a sobering one: Many of my peers lost jobs.

For me, peer is anyone in that 46-56 age group. Somehow, we have been redefined as the new elderly—at least by some in the corporate world.

I don’t know if health care fears have driven some of this, but it is startling to see people who are supposedly in their peak earning years instead walking the unemployment line. Worse, the likelihood of such folks returning to the income level they enjoyed prior to being let go runs just about to zero.

This is not good. It’s not good for those people, nor is it good for America.

And it may be worst of all for the Church, since these are the folks who had the incomes that funded their local congregations.

I talk about a lot of Church issues on Cerulean Sanctum, but I think no other “daily living” issue is more ignored by the American Church than our work lives. The advice most churches dispense on being a Christian who works is to start a workplace Bible study and to practice ethical work habits. That’s as far as it goes.

But when churches start discovering they have many people in their late 40s and early 50s trying to find work and not succeeding, SOMETHING must give. This trend is not one we can continue to ignore. Technology is putting more people out of work, and tech job availability is not compensating for the losses. Worse, one recruiter told me that anyone with gray hair who walks into a tech company looking for work is just wasting his or her time. Even worse? The same recruiter told me it’s not just tech companies anymore—it’s every company.

Again, this is an enormous issue. Which Christian with a national presence is talking about it? In fact, which Christian with a national stage is saying anything about issues of health care costs, stagnant wages, the increasing ranks of the un- and under-employed, and this creeping down of when someone must consider himself or herself “done” with a career, even when he or she doesn’t want to be done?

I continue to get the sense that while the Church in America has no qualms talking about spiritual issues, issues of everyday living (such as work) are going unaddressed, and those issues cause the most worry and grief in people. They are looking for answers, and the Church is not providing them.

Problem is, Jesus didn’t leave behind an answerless Church. It may be true that in this world we will have trouble, but Christ has overcome the world. For Christians to throw up our hands and do nothing is not the way of the Lord.