Friday, September 24, 2010

Wisdom for work

TODAY'S SPECIAL: Ecclesiastes 11:1-10

TO CHEW ON: "Cast your bread upon the waters,
For you will find it after many days." 11:1

"He who observes the wind will not sow,
And he who regards the clouds will not reap." 11:4

"In the morning sow your seed,
And in the evening do not withhold your hand;
For you do not know which will prosper,
Either this or that,
Or whether both alike will be good." 11:6

I don't know whether you read the positive thinkers (Dale Carnegie, Robert Schuller et al). I know I have and, though some of their writings seem unrealistically optimistic, I do admit to feeling empowered, energized, and hopeful after spending some time with them.

That's also how the three verses above make me feel. They provide a refreshingly positive outlook in a book that takes a mostly gloomy view of human effort.

These three proverbs speak to three aspects of work. I'll tell you how they speak to me as a writer. Perhaps that will give you thoughts about how they relate to you and your work.

  • The "Cast your bread..." verse says to me: "Make investments even though the return isn't immediately apparent; risk effort rather than withholding it out of an abundance of caution." This verse is in my stack of "writing verses." I think of it when I send away a manuscript. It is true in more ways than one. For it is often many days before I hear back the fate of something I have submitted.
  • I've paraphrased the "He who observes..." verse: "Don't delay effort by making excuses that the conditions aren't exactly right." In my field of endeavor, this is easy to do. I can tell myself, this piece isn't quite ready and continue tweaking it forever. Or I can think up reasons why now is not the right time to submit (in summer editors will be on holidays, in fall -- swamped with submissions, close to Christmas -- preoccupied etc.). This verse advises me not to rationalize myself into paralysis. Rather, I should expend myself, even if conditions don't look ideal.
  • "In the morning sow your seed..." says to me, "Diversify your efforts/investments for you don't know which will succeed, or if they all will. (I like the positive note "...or whether both alike will be good." He could just as easily have said, "Or whether both alike will fail.") As a writer, this verse gives me permission to diversify (work in a variety of genres), something which the common wisdom doesn't recommend but which suits my style and personality only too well.
These proverbs all advise wise stewardship of effort. It's a work ethic of which Jesus approves. Whatever your line of work, may their wisdom liberate, motivate, energize, and empower you too!

PRAYER: Dear God, please deliver me from laziness, over-cautiousness and fear, Help me to act on your promptings, and live carefree as I leave the results in Your hands. Amen.

MORE: In the same vein...

Here's another bit of writing advice I've had posted near my writing workplace for years. It is addressed specifically to writers but I'm sure it's applicable to other areas of work as well:

"One of the few things I know about writing is this: Spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book, give it, give it all, give it now... Some more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes."
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- Annie Dillard



Do your 8-12-year-olds have daily devotions? Point them to Bible Drive-Thru.

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