Sunday, April 26, 2009

Sometimes More Is Too Much

I'll never forget the story I heard years ago of a fellow who was an artisan in his craft. He loved to bake bread. Because he wanted to work the dough himself, he could only produce a few dozen loaves in a day, and because he had time to be creative in his bread making, his bread became more and more popular. Pretty soon people were clamouring for him to expand his business. He kept saying no as that would mean taking his work into a whole different dimension.

I didn't know the fellow but I felt bad for him, because here was someone doing what he loved, and doing only enough so he could still enjoy what he did. To take it to an assembly line would have taken the artistry out of his baking, and the joy of actually working the dough with his hands would have been traded for turning machinery buttons on and off. Some may call that progress, but is it?

I like what Oscar Wilde says, "Every portrait that is painted with feeling is a portrait of the artist, not of the sitter." The artist here is the baker, and the portrait his loaf of bread. Maybe I'm being romantic, but perhaps that's why the customers were begging for more. Perhaps they felt the love this man poured into his baking. Every loaf unique, not exactly the same shape or even with the exact same ingredients, because he had the freedom to change his mind and add raisins without ruining a truckload of flour. You won't get that in mass production!

Too often we live by other people's standards of what we need to do to feel productive. "Show me your piles of files in your outbox, and your stacks of bread, and I'll tell you if you've been productive or not. Let me see how much work you've accomplished and I'll judge how much to reward you."

So what am I trying to say here? Mass production and creativity don't usually live on the same street. We may be tempted, even pushed into, doing more and making it bigger. But more is not always better. Not if the trade-off means loss of time for relationships, nurturing our own inner world, and sacrificing rest for bodies that are not machines. Not if we trade in our God-given creativity and the ability to be original and truly enjoy our work. 

There's an old wise saying, "When you eat the fruit of the labour of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you." I look around me...sometimes I don't always get a whole lot accomplished in a day. I don't have neat stacks of finished files to show for my labour anymore. But for my efforts I may have a beautifully articulated article that will encourage my readers. I may have a friend who feels hopeful again because I spent an afternoon with her.

Occasionally, I wonder what happened to that artisan-baker. I hope he never traded in his delight of working with his hands for an increase in production of his bread. I think everyone would have been disappointed in the end. Sometimes more is too much. So I'm learning to ask for Wisdom to know when to stop.

* * *

May the fruit from the labour of your hands
bring you happiness and wellness today.

Monday, April 13, 2009

What's the Best Thing That's Happened?

I have never cared for the opening line people use when greeting me, "So, what's new with you?" I realize it's a reasonable way to begin a conversation, but I tend to feel put on the spot, as if the question is loaded with an expectancy for something out of the ordinary and requires an equally out-of-the-ordinary response.

Now, I have to admit, although my life is very pleasant most of the time, it is also quite ordinary most of the time. I haven't been away on an exotic holiday, nothing untoward has happened to me or anyone I know, and the little joys and pleasures I may experience from my every day routines and rituals -- alone or with others -- don't seem to be the fodder for opening conversations.

Of course, I could tell the person how I enjoyed playing with my kitty cat as she chased the string around the room. But, first of all, it's not new information, and second, the person, unless a tried and true cat friend, probably isn't going to be as eager to know whether Miss Kitty played with her toys today or not.

So, what to do? I believe author, speaker and life coach, Valorie Burton of Rich Minds, Rich Rewards, shared a wonderful new question in her weekly e-newsletter I received this morning. Here's an excerpt from it:

What's the best thing that happened to you today?
"This is one of my favourite questions to ask people in lieu of the overused and often insincere, "How are you?" It's a simple, thought-provoking question. Ask it of others -- and once a day, ask it of yourself.
In my seminars and workshops, I often have participants ask each other, "What's the best thing that's happened to you today (or this week or this month ...)?" Most people have to think for a moment, but the response is always one that lifts spirits and puts life in a whole new perspective."

Now, doesn't that question create more opportunity for interesting conversation? To share more heart stuff? For me, one of the best things that's happened to me today was that I enjoyed a refreshing walk in the neighbourhood, breathing in all those earthy Spring smells and listening for the bird songs of the newest arrivals. I even chatted with a chirpy sparrow when I passed the tree he was perched in.

So, what's the best thing that's happened to you today?

Gratefully yours,

Sunday, April 12, 2009

For The Joy Set Before Him

Easter Meditation

What gives an Olympic athlete the motivation and stamina to endure countless months of hard training, working out till his muscles scream in agony? What makes him choose to work on his technique or program, even when he hears the laughter of friends floating through open windows on warm summer days? What makes the athlete endure? What gives him the motivation to keep at it?

It's the dream he sees in front of him -- the joy set before him. Perhaps it's the dream to compete with the world's best, to win a coveted gold medal, to beat his own personal best record, or to receive accolades from fans around the world. Whatever his dream, that's what makes him endure his 'cross' of hardship.

Jesus Christ also had a dream. It was this dream, this 'joy set before him' that gave him the courage and the willingness to endure great hardship and suffering.

"...He, for the joy (of obtaining the prize) that was set before Him, endured the cross..." Hebrews 12:2 (amp.)So what was this great joy? What was worth so much that He considered it a prize, a prize so grand, so wonderful that He thought it well worth enduring the shame and degradation of all that led up to the cross? What was the prize that gave him so much joy just thinking about it?

Was it because He was finally going back to heaven, after his stint here on this planet with all these crazy people? Was it because He was going to get to sit at the right hand of the Father when He returned? Was it for the inheritance and the title of "King of Kings"?

No! No! The realization that the great joy, the great reward He kept seeing and thinking about during this time was.... me .... and you... and every other person ever to be born!

We were the picture He had in his mind's eye when He let cruel men beat his body, rip out his beard, and pound nails into his flesh. He endured all that in anticipation of the joy of knowing that his sacrifice would clear the way for you and me to become friends with God again, for all time and eternity.

We are his reward. We are the ones that gave -- and continue to give -- Jesus Christ joy unspeakable. Don't ever think that you aren't much to God. You are what He saw and dreamed about. You are the prize! You are the one for whom He endured the cross... for the joy set before him... It was YOU! YOU! YOU!

Oh Happy Day!

Monday, April 06, 2009

Monday Musings

It's bright and beautiful today and the air is full of warm earthy smells. I heard my first robin the other evening -- that's always a happy Spring sound. I love to hear their evening vespers as they warble from roof top peaks.

It's been busy around here, so I haven't done much in the way of creative writing for my blog. I have lots of things stirring on the inside, but it takes time to 'mine' them out. I was talking to God about that recently, how it seems so hard to put into coherent writings those bits and pieces I've been chewing and mulling over, especially those deeper things I hear Him whispering to me. As quick as anything, I heard Him quip, "Mining is hard work".

I chuckled. Of course! What else did I expect? Diamonds don't often lay atop the soil, we have to work hard to get at them. And then, the work doesn't end there, because they come in a very rough state. So much more work is needed to cut and polish until that gem becomes something we want to wear and enjoy. So, too, our words and ideas need such hard work.

What should we do when the mining gets too hard? There are little things I do, like going for a walk, taking a tea break, or going somewhere to browse at something new and different. Some times the best thing is to put it on the back burner and let it simmer some more. One thing I do for sure is read. I let the mined and polished gems from other 'miners' encourage me not to give up, but to press forward, to keep cutting, polishing and working.

On that note...

Here's wishing you all a pleasant and joy-filled day!