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.