Most people make New Year’s resolutions. We make goals and then work out how to achieve them, one way or another. I do this, too. I set out determined and generally grind to a halt soon after. But sometimes I’m more gentle. I linger a bit. I’ve allowed myself to ease into this new year slowly, waiting to understand what it’s calling out in me. It might be nearly spring now, but finally I see how I want to characterize myself in these newly budding days. I am choosing how to name this place, and what I’ve chosen is more than just a moniker — it’s a theme song. You will surely recognize it.
This all came about by accident, an unintended gift from a friend. She recently introduced me at a large event and said kind things. She said, “Allison is our right arm. She’s our left arm. In fact, she’s the whole Hokey Pokey!” I blushed, amused and affirmed, and everyone chuckled. I’ve thought of that moment often in the days since.
The thing is, it’s not really true of me, the Hokey Pokey. I don’t dance unless it’s in the kitchen with my children and I know that no one else is watching. I don’t often put my whole self into anything. I like to keep a little something in reserve. Call it self-preservation, call it fear, call it whatever you want — I’m withholding some part of me most of the time. And I’m not sure that’s a good thing.
There are a number of places in my life where I’ve been hugging the wall a little bit. Things I’ve said I want to do but haven’t done, ideas I’ve been brewing so long that they’re getting stale. There are places I want to go creatively that I’m just not sure how to navigate, so I haven’t even set out. But I don’t want to be a wallflower forever, and you can’t learn the two-step without moving your feet.
When I’m trying to figure things out, I search the Scriptures, where people have been making my same mistakes and discoveries since the beginning of time. I find inspiration and lots of talk of dancing there, but no specific mentions of the Hokey Pokey. However, the prophet Malachi nails it — exactly what I’ve been thinking about.
Malachi is reprimanding the people of Judah, vehemently calling them out for not bringing their first, best fruits to the temple for sacrifice. They are cheating God and expecting Him to bless them anyway. True, sometimes God does that. We withhold, and in spite of our stingy fear, God blesses us. But here, Malachi tells the people in no uncertain terms that they are unfaithful and robbing God. They, like me, argue. “But I’m doing this, and this, and that. I’m trying really hard. Doesn’t that count for something?”
This is God’s response, through Malachi:
But you ask “How do we rob you?”
In tithes and offerings. You are under a curse — the whole nation of you — because you are robbing me. Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this . . . and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it. (Malachi 3:8–10)
There is so much that strikes me in this passage. I love the idea that I can bring something substantial to God and that it can be useful. The Old Testament tithes and offerings were given specifically for the glory of God and the sustenance of the priests and their work. When the people gave their tithes, God used them to bless others. There was food in His house. And the same is true today.
I give tithes in many ways, most often financially. For me, that is not the hard part. I find it easier to part with my money than to part with my control and my manipulations. Money is straightforward. Dollars and cents don’t comprise the fullness of me, so I find them easier to give. Making a monetary gift is immediately joyful because I can support my church and good people doing great work, which I believe is important to God. That is immensely satisfying. That’s not the hardest part.
The hardest part is bringing the whole of my Self to God and offering me.
I can offer some of “my” time, maybe just my right arm’s worth. Or I can dive into something demanding and sacrificial, a place where I sense the Holy Spirit is leading. Jump in with both feet. But the whole dance? Impossible. I just really don’t know how to do that. I’m diffident by nature, and guarded. It’s unfamiliar, I’ve got no rhythm, and I look stupid. I am not a natural at this. I will lose my Self somehow, and my dignity along with it. Plus, I don’t even know exactly what I have to offer, or how to give it. What are the dance steps again?
This is where the Hokey Pokey comes in. I love the challenge the Lord Almighty issues in Malachi 3. He pushes hard: “Oh yeah? Don’t trust me with all you are and all you have? Bring. It. And then watch what I can do with it. You won’t even be able to handle it. I will throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that you will not have room enough for it.”
The whole Hokey Pokey.
The thing is, sometimes you have to be willing to set things aside in order to disco. You can’t carry a full wine glass in a conga line without spilling on somebody. You have to kick off your high heels to avoid breaking an ankle while you limbo. You can’t salsa with your fanny glued to your chair — you have to give up your self respect to do the chicken dance, and you have to let go of everything if you want to do the whole Hokey Pokey. Right arm, left arm, right foot, left foot, whole self, in.
So what do I have to let go of to give my stubborn, cautious self over to this crazy dance?
I have to let go of knowing how it will all turn out. I have to give up having a plan. I have to quit saying, “I’m not sure I’m really any good at ____.” I’m going to have to accept the fact that people might be watching. Break up with my own expectations of myself and dump my chronic need for approval. No one will ever tell you that you are skilled at the Hokey Pokey. Seriously. And they shouldn’t have to. If you put your whole self in, you’ve already done it.
That’s the point. God doesn’t say, “If you hone the words just right, I will make you a Pulitzer Prize winner.” He doesn’t say, “If you just drop that one really bad habit, I will give you a zillion bonus points.” He says, “Bring It. Test me. Give me what you’ve got and watch what I will do with it.”
Where am I withholding from God? Is it in the places where I think I’m doing okay? Is it something I am afraid of? The regrets I’m already worried about having? I will bring those. In my relationships, in my obligations, in my work, and in my creative life. I will walk to the altar head on, and say “Here I am.” This is me, all of it. Not holding anything back. Ready to speak truth, to acknowledge my feelings. Ready to sit down with a pen and an endless blank page. Ready to start some things that I don’t see how I can finish. Ready to fight hard against holding anything back.
Cue the music. My shoes are off. My defenses are down. There goes the right arm, then the left. This is embarrassing, I’m closing my eyes so I don’t have to watch. Left foot, right foot. I’m doing the whole Hokey Pokey. Join me? Let’s dance until those floodgates open and the blessings of heaven rain down. And then let’s dance some more.
Allison Gaskins is a parishioner at TFCA.
After several years as an interior designer, this year Ann is pursuing a pursuing a master’s degree from the University of Buckingham in Eighteenth Century English and French Furnishings & Decorative Arts. Yes, really. We sent her several questions to reflect on, and below are her replies.
What’s my vocation? What am I doing in the UK this year?
For the last 9 years my normal day job had been working as a licensed interior designer for an international architectural firm that designs luxury hotels. Working at this firm was an all consuming blessing and burden. Emphasis on “all consuming”. I liken it to running in front of a cement truck. It was addictive in a way, because it was a great firm and I was fortunate to be given the best of the best in terms of projects. Just at the moment that I would start to loose it and think, “I can’t do this anymore”, another amazing hotel would be dropped in my lap to design.
But, during the Fall of 2011, I went to my alma matter, Baylor University, and discussed the possibility of coming down to teach design history. It felt as if God had been sketching out the portrait of my life with a pencil and had just started to add the color to the painting. The conversation at Baylor went well, so I began to look for a graduate program that I would be willing to “drudge” through on the path toward doing what I really want to do. These are the exact words that I said to my old professor about the master’s degree: “Well, if I was going to get a master’s degree, I’d get it in something like 18th century English Furniture, but who’s going to have a degree like that?”
Well, as it turns out, the ENGLISH have a program like that! So, a couple of scholarships later, I am now living in London for a year while pursuing a master’s degree from the University of Buckingham in Eighteenth Century English and French Furnishings & Decorative Arts. I go to class at the Wallace Collection and the Victoria and Albert Museum every week. It’s not shabby in any way, and certainly is not a drudgery! On the first day of class, my 9 cohorts and I got in to a discussion during one of the multitudinous tea breaks about our favorite period films, and I felt like stretching out my arms and saying, “My People!”
What do I love a/b Eighteenth Century English Furniture?
The Eighteenth century brought a new found freedom in England and France for the rich to invent and consume luxury goods of all sorts, which had a huge impact on the interior. Furnishings changed from utilitarian pieces to objects of comfort and beauty. Of course, I didn’t know that before starting this degree, I just loved European history and am a sucker for a gorgeously carved Chippendale or Louis XV chair. The craftsmanship of these pieces is astonishing and the curves so graceful. I could seriously stare at them for hours (which is fortunate because we DO stare at this stuff for hours in this program!). My calling to interior design as a ten year old was closely linked to English history, as I fell in love with England’s royal history and architecture through films such as Anne of the Thousand Days and an old educational cartoon on the building of castles.
What have I learned about myself during this time?
I’ve learned that there are periods of one’s life where you exercise more or less of your extroversion and introversion, and that it’s OK to lean into them, even if it feels itchy one way or the other. I am definitely energized by being with people, but the last 3 months have been a time of tremendous rest and rejuvenation for my spirit, as I only have class two days a week. It has been so life giving to just sit and visit with myself in silence. I’m not great at it, but I’ve been exercising the discipline of not talking to people, not busying myself with domestic chores, not studying all the time, allowing myself to sleep in way later than 5:30 in the morning, and other luxuries that I had, in the busyness of normal life in DC, robbed from myself. As the months have fanned out, I have gradually craved being with people more, and so my tank has begun to be filled up with friendships again. It’s been good to explore both sides of my personhood.
What have I learned about the Lord?
Well, “learned” is not quite the best term, because we all know that God is good and that He has amazing things mapped out for our lives, but this has been a time when I have really KNOWN it with conviction. Ever since the night of December 1st, 2011 when I discovered this master’s program, I have seen God mow down each and every obstacle in my path (and in truth, there weren’t even that many!). Every time God took care of another hurdle, I’d be surprised for a few minutes at His brilliant provision, and then want to hit my head and say, “Duh! Of course he worked that out, silly!” It has been fun to see what happens when God puts you on the equivalent of the best ride at Disneyland; sometimes experiencing God is a bit of an adrenaline rush.
What has been the hardest thing a/b being in the UK?
My answer to this question should be read through the filter of “first world problems”, because let’s face it, I didn’t move to Ethiopia. Having said that, I really miss having a clothes dryer! America is indeed the land of convenience! More importantly, I miss TFCA quite a lot! I knew it was one of the best churches I’ve been a part of (and as a military kid, I’ve been in a lot), but now I am convinced! I miss the awesome worship, both traditional and contemporary, the most.
What has been the best?
The best part of being here has been the surprising relationships with three of the girls in my program. They’re just fun and light and make me laugh. I began praying for my classmates last January, so it’s not surprising that God has provided such sweet relationships, and opportunities to share Christ with them. It’s shocking and humbling to find out that none of them had a Christian friend before me. How can that be?
The amazing trips to the 25 or so country houses that we’ve gone to as a class were also pretty fantastic. We go on tours of homes not open to the public, and get to crawl around with our “torches” to look at the underside of old priceless furniture, and to handle wickedly expensive Sevres porcelain. What’s not to love?
What’s the best book I’ve read this year?
Found Art, by Leanna Tankersley was a surprising and serendipitous gift. Its message was especially profound for me as it’s all about finding beauty in “foreign” places. I highly recommend this book (for the ladies primarily).
Jim, Suby, Wake, Henry, and Eli Wildman live in Falls Church, and are traveling the world together this year. No, really. You can follow their exploits at hearingtheechoes.com. We asked them to think on what it’s like to live their calling out in this unusual way.
Suby: Be, Do, Now
Questions of calling and vocation have always been difficult for me. Jim and I revisit the topic often, including a recent snowy morning in Istanbul. What am I good for? Who am I serving? How can I use my gifts? The answers are rarely clear for me, even in our settled life in Falls Church, much less during our nomadic year abroad. So far, I’m learning to SEPARATE what I’m called to DO … and what I’m called to BE.
For what I’m called to DO, I wear many hats this year. In addition to being a parent, I am teacher, travel agent, interpreter, tour guide, referee, Bible study leader, navigator, camp counselor – all at the same time, 24/7. I want to teach the boys not only about math and writing, but about courage, wisdom, compassion, beauty, goodness, a broader perspective (they really roll their eyes at that one), and how God’s Spirit is moving in the world.
And the clothes still need to be washed – can anyone decipher the Turkish labels on the washing machine?
Then there are the questions of what will we eat and where will we get it … and will the boys EVER chew with their mouths closed?
At the same time, I know that God calls me to BE a certain way. Trustful, faithful, prayerful – in the midst of all this doing.
It’s not easy – and I often need reminding.
In November we were nearing the tail-end of our planned itinerary (I especially like having an itinerary). We were also set to end our long-term car lease for a vehicle that had been a sort of home away from home. Then we were burglarized and robbed of many of our possessions. Looking forward, I was already anxious about upcoming time in Morocco, Turkey, East Africa, Asia – largely places I’ve never visited and places for which we have few set plans.
Boarding the plane from Marseille to Casablanca – from familiar to unknown – I felt we were jumping off a cliff. We were all feeling more than a little homesick, violated, and tether less … and there was nothing I could DO about it.
An hour into the flight, I pulled out my devotional book and my notebook to journal a bit. I looked out the window at the Mediterranean, then started to read that day’s entry from Jesus Calling: “Be awed by the vastness of My Love for you. It is wider than any continent, longer than any road, higher than any mountain, and deeper than any ocean. This vast love is yours – forever!”
From the row behind me, my son urgently called to me, “Mom! It’s Africa!” We were skirting the mountainous northern coast of Morocco, and passing over the Straits of Gibraltar. Out the left window of the plane was the continent of Africa, out the right window was Europe. Below us was the Mediterranean, ahead of us, the Atlantic Ocean. Yes, Lord, I was awed.
It felt like a clear call to BE here. DOing this. For now.
Jim: Called to Journey
Last July, Suby and I and our three boys (ages 13, 11, and 8) set out on a year-long journey around the world. We planned to “Hear the Echoes” of God’s Name and mark as we moved from place to place. It’s a framework loosely based on Psalm 8 and the words, “Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” … or from The Message: “God, brilliant Lord, your name echoes around the world.”
So far, God has surely blessed us with His Voice. We have seen – touched! – His mark in wonderful and unexpected ways. We have ALSO cleaned up vomit from car sickness, been robbed of nearly everything we were carrying, pulled out some strong parenting stops, and lost our way countless times. In fact – in a recent 24-hour period – Suby and I were on our hands and knees with the boys in utter joy as we explored centuries-old stone dwellings carved INSIDE mountains of rock … then, later, Suby and I engaged in a long and hard conversation about how our marriage could improve beyond current strains.
When we’re not on a journey like this, I am employed as a journalist. It’s a profession I regard as a true calling from God. I am gifted in special ways to do this work, to tell stories about people. DOING this work, I believe, brings Him Glory. I have taken a leave of absence for our yearlong journey, and plan to return to my cubicle this July.
As our yearlong journey ebbs and flows, my gifts as a storyteller incline me to explain and summarize how all our experiences fit together. I reflect and reflect and reflect … and YEARN to connect all the dots. As you – and I – already know, these efforts sadly always fall short.
So what have I learned in this jumble of yearlong journey experiences – as Suby and I try to stay oriented to Psalm 8 and God’s awesome echoes around the world? For starters, I’ve learned that sometimes we’re called to LET GO of a calling, even for a season.
I’ve also learned to celebrate – worship – the journey He has laid out before us. In each country. This week. Today. Now.
I’ve learned that the JUMBLE of experiences – the ebb and flow – is somehow His mark, too.
“God produces spiritual formation in all areas of life; it is not exclusive to Sunday worship, or to vocational ministers. It is for every day, everybody, everywhere. God created the whole word, and sent his son to be the incarnate, fleshly example of His love. What each of us does all week long matters to God. Whether our work is public or quiet, physical or intellectual, at a desk, in a kitchen, or at a computer, God uses our whole life for our spiritual formation.”
The above statement outlines one of the 10 core beliefs of the Spiritual Formation and Discipleship team at TFCA. We are called to be the salt of the earth.
In concert with our winter ’13 series on ‘Calling’ we asked specific church members about how God is forming and shaping them in this season of their lives as they live out their callings.
Read more about:
Advent is the start to the new year for the Anglican church calendar. It’s the season where we prepare for Jesus’ return and celebrate his glorious incoming into our world. Typically we set aside the five Sundays before Christmas to focus our attention on Jesus’ Incarnation. Like Lent, it’s a season of penitence, waiting, listening, and often practicing spiritual disciplines by starting or starting a practice. Below are three suggestions for how to celebrate this season.
The definitive musical work around Advent is Handel’s “The Messiah,” which will be performed by the TFCA choir (led by Simon Dixon) at the 9 a.m. service on December 9th at Bishop O’Connell High School. Here are three ways to make “The Messiah” part of your Advent this year.
First, the easiest way is of course to listen through the entire work by getting it through iTunes or a CD, and studying the passages that serve as the lyrics for the songs.
You could also use Joseph McCabe’s Handel’s Messiah: A Devotional Commentary as part of your daily reading.
Lastly, John Newton preached 50 sermons from passages in “The Messiah”, which have been compiled into the following work. It would be amazing reading.
C.S. Lewis called St. Athanasius’ De Incarnatione (On the Incarnation) ‘a masterpiece’. It’s a good summary of the significance of this doctrine by this champion of the Council of Nicea. It’s what I’m reading this Advent season.
Also, in a ‘hot off the press’ headline, former TFCA staffer Tim Clayton has recently finished a book called ‘Exploring Advent with Luke’. This simple volume is a daily guide through Advent and the 12 Days of Christmas, can be found on Amazon.
Part of what celebrating Advent does (and it’s a Christian, not specifically Anglican celebration) is root our sense of time in its appropriate source, the Lord who created time. It instructs our heart and senses into making sure we have rhythm and practices that cement our life in God.
Martha Zimmerman’s Celebrating the Christian Year is a time-tested gift of suggestions and habits you can develop to organize your schedule, and life, more unto the Lord. And Bobby Gross, a former InterVarsity colleague, has written Living the Christian Year: Time to Inhabit the Story of God to great reviews. Both these works would come with practical suggestions on how to make your Advent calendar unique this season.
Send us your ideas and habits as well, and may God bless our Advent this year,
What does it look like to “build” a family? Does God want to be a full Partner in this worthy endeavor? It’s obvious to me that He does and is the driving force in bringing forth a particular family. Trusting Him “at all times” (Psalm 62:8) is the key.
My husband Mark and I looked forward to having children. After marrying young, beginning grad school together, and staying extra busy with part-time work and full-time course loads, we were blessed with our first son at graduation time. Family life had begun. Two years later, another bouncing baby boy was entrusted to us, en route from a gracious LORD. We were young, educated, poor, and very happy!
A few years later, our friends began to inspire us to look at family-building from a broader perspective – what if God wanted us to blend our birth children with another child through adoption? Since this was a very new consideration, Mark and I began to dream of what this could look like – Is there a baby for us,” born not under my heart, but in it” (as the saying goes)?
The LORD has continually pressed me in to know Him more intimately through various ways of prayer , absorbing Scripture, journaling, and welcoming in the Holy Spirit to “take control”. Joy and hope flows from there. At this time of my life, with two young sons, a hard-working husband, and limited income – staying in the “safe zone” of family-building would have seemed reasonable. But, through the Spirit’s prompting, another plan was being formed.
As we seriously considered adopting our next child, the circumstances were prohibitive. I yielded my new hopes to Jesus in prayer and didn’t pressure my husband. I knew that as I trusted Him, we would see His will come to pass. As I was away at a healing conference in 1993, Mark took our 3 and 6 year old sons forward for a blessing at the communion rail as he knelt to receive. When he returned them to their seats, the Lord gave Mark an impression in prayer that we would bring an Asian daughter home to our family through adoption! This was so strong that he told me immediately what had transpired as I walked through the door from the conference. I was amazed. We were getting a clear “word” that the LORD would move through circumstances to complete our family through adoption.
Let me say that letting go, being “out of control”, and believing “without seeing” have all proven to be the richest moments of spiritual growth in me. Abandonment to the One who sees all and loves me so is where contentment lies. At this point, dramatic events brought our young family from Virginia to Oregon in 1994, setting us up to be ready to adopt. Mark and I were in unity. We prayed together frequently and proceeded with securing an agency, home study, and the fees required. Then we waited. When the LORD gives a word and a hope, it is thrilling to trust Him to provide what only He can give.
The month we submitted all the paperwork, our daughter was conceived. She was born on my husband’s birthday, in South Korea. One month later we got her picture and she was in our home at the wee age of 5 months. The LORD wanted His little one to be ours. Our sons had no idea of the joy their hearts could hold having this little sister. We had prayed in secret, and in our living room, together and with trusted friends. We then watched the LORD move determinedly to build the O’Keefe family, in His way and with perfect timing.
*November is National Adoption Month.
My kids and I like to troll through old, hilarious commercials on YouTube. From the subtlety of Aaron Rodgers’ in the ‘Discount Double Check’ series, to the recent brilliance of the Kohler repairman installing and testing a new shower, to the young boy’s ‘wisdom’ in the Kaiser Permanente ‘Kid Wisdom’ short . . . there’s lots to laugh about and with.
Some of my all-time favorites are the commercials of Peyton Manning. Manning has a dry wit and an all-world ability not to take himself too seriously. He spoofs himself again and again, especially in his MasterCard series. And I believe that Martin Luther would have loved this particular Manning advert.
The ad director who wrote this struck gold; I laugh at the air-horn when the gas tank gets full every time. And in this clip you see Manning, unwittingly, paying homage to one of Luther’s core beliefs, namely that because God works through means all our vocations have meaning and significance. We could be insurance adjusters accountants, bakers, lawyers, quarterbacks, waiters, even pastors . . . but all our work matters. All deserve cheers.
“In other words, in his earthly kingdom, just as in his spiritual kingdom, God bestows his gifts through means. God ordained that human beings be bound together in love, in relationships and communities existing in a state of interdependence. In this context, God is providentially at work caring for his people, each of whom contributes according to his or her God-given talents, gifts, opportunities, and stations.”
A few years ago I had the chance to be a part, as a priest, of the installation of a friend into the responsibilities of a large government job. The day was full of pomp and circumstance; many friends gathered to bear witness, a Cabinet Secretary swore my friend in, and I had an opportunity to lead prayers for him. It was clear that we all felt this vocation our friend was entering into was significant and worthy of dedication.
During the ceremony I found myself wishing we could do this kind of thing for everyone in their work, much like we see Manning doing comedically in the YouTube clip. We all need community to affirm the value of our work, we need prayers offered on our behalf, we need others to bear witness and support the promises that we assumed with our whole hearts, minds and souls. Because God works through all our means, all our means have value and significance. Luther writes that, “All our work in the field, in the garden, in the city, in the home, in struggle, in government — to what does it all amount before God except child’s play, by means of which God is pleased to give his gifts in the field, at home, and everywhere? These are the masks of our Lord God, behind which he wants to be hidden and to do all things.
What you do, and what I do . . . they all are the masks of God, and to be done for his glory. So crunch that spreadsheet, fold those clothes, study that social studies, write that report, and indeed cut that meat, knowing you are the means of His love to the world.
 A quote from Luther scholar Gene Edward Veith in the article “The Doctrine of Vocation” found on the Modern Reformation website at www.modernreformation.org.
 - Exposition of Psalm 147, as quoted by Gustaf Wingren, Luther on Vocation (Evansville, IN: Ballast Press, 1994), p. 138, highlighted in the G.E. Veith Article “The Doctrine of Vocation”.
On Vocation and the Common Good
First posted at The Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation and Culture May 2012.
(Dr. Steven Garber delivered this commencement address at Geneva College on Saturday, May 5, 2012)
President Smith, respected trustees, gifted faculty and staff, distinguished guests, and especially honored graduates and their much-loved families, I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you today. In the mysteries of heaven and history, generations of graduates watch and listen this day, a cloud of witnesses that they are, hoping for us as we take up this 164th commencement ceremony of Geneva College.
Imagine following the Beaver River down into the Ohio, and then upstream past Ambridge and Sewickley, finally to the place where the great river is born from the two rivers. Along the Allegheny are several grand public spaces, two of them for Pittsburgh’s sports teams. Last summer I spent a very interesting day between those two stadiums.
From morning to night I met with a group of people whose vision I helped form some years ago. We call ourselves theWedgwood Circle, and its vision is focused on cultural renewal. Believing the culture is upstream from politics, we have drawn together people from the world of the arts—the storytellers of our society in film, in music, in art galleries, in television, in theater–and from the world of industry and philanthropy as well, asking the question, “What would happen if we invested in the culture together? What if we cared about history together, about the way the world turns out?” Not easy questions, and not easy answers.
That day I had the privilege of speaking to the group about our vision, and why it matters, but the privilege was mostly that I did so alongside John Perkins, a man whom I first met here atGenevain the 1970s. Some of you know him well, as he is a hero to all of us who care about justice rolling down like a river, especially so in light of our long and tragic stumbling over race in American life; what the writer Wendell Berry has called “the hidden wound” of our life together.
Alongside courses in the history and philosophy of science and seminars in film criticism, in my last year as an undergraduate I gave much of my time to planning a conference we called “Reshaping the American Dream.” 1976 was the Bicentennial Year and it seemed to me that Geneva Colleges hould take the lead in rethinking our history and our mission as Americans. Audacious? I suppose. Arrogant, I’m not sure. But hopeful, definitely.
As the 1960s became the 1970s, as the counter-culture merged in and out of the culture, many in my generation were rethinking everything. We dreamed dreams about the way world ought to be. One of those we invited to speak at our conference was John Perkins, the Mississippi native that he is, the African American that he is, the son of sharecroppers that he is, the courageous visionary that he is, who joined others in helping us think through who we are and who we needed to be, if we were to take our part in “reshaping the American dream.” When all was said and done, the world did not change dramatically—which was a disappointment.
But years later, I am still dreaming dreams. And that I do took me into a day of conversation in the inner sanctum of the Pirates stadium, with people from across the country, each one committed to the responsibility of cultural renewal. Some were business people, some were city planners, some were clergy, some were journalists, some were philanthropists, some were artists, and together we spent a day doing the hard work of seeing what might be done, of seeing what we might do to take responsibility for the way the world turns out.
As good as that day was, the night was even better. We walked across the large parking lots between where the Pirates and the Steelers play their games, and along with thousands upon thousands went to the U2 concert. Have you ever been? They are amazing phenomena, grand and magnificent and artful. And perhaps surprising to some, there is even something majestically, mysteriously graceful in a U2 concert—and Pittsburgh as Pittsburgh was there to witness a little bit of heaven touching earth for a summer evening. Looking at the crowd gathered under the towering Mt. Washington, it felt as if the whole city was in Heinz Field, rocking and rolling along with Bono and his band, taking part in the final concert of the biggest tour in music history.
Listening to him that night I was once again reminded of the unusual gift that is his, viz. he sings songs that are shaped by the truest truths of the universe, but in language that the whole world can understand.
Can you? Have you learned to do that? In these years at Geneva, has that been what your learning has been about? Have you learned to think so clearly about the vision of the kingdom that you have developed a proper confidence in your ability to translate, so that those who do not think like you and believe like you, still might be persuaded by you? When you commence from here on into the world, will you be able to enter into the vocations and the occupations that your disciplines have prepared you to take up, with the skills of heart and mind you will need to sing songs that the whole world can hear?
It is an important question for undergraduates, wherever they may be found. Some years ago I spent a week in Chicago, lecturing between the University of Chicago and Wheaton College, in both schools meeting seriously Christian students. They are two very different institutions with two very different histories in two very different parts of the city. The longer I listened in both places though, the more sure I was that the students needed to know each other, to listen to each other. They needed to understand that while the social settings of their educations were profoundly different—the one an almost Ivy League education founded on a great books curriculum with deeply secular intent, and the other a faithful vision of Christian learning with everything, everything, in place to support students in their vocations as students—my reading was that they would face a common challenge when they finished, viz. would they be able to graduate and make sense of faith in the face of the intellectual and sociological challenges of a pluralist and pluralizing world?
Do you hear that question? Do you understand that challenge? It is one thing to study hard in one’s undergraduate years, even to think things through carefully and critically in light of faith, but it is something else altogether to take up the next years of life in the push-and-shove of a secularizing society, still making sense of what you believe and why you believe what you believe. Many do not make it. In thousands of very different ways they fail to develop the habits of heart that will sustain them as adolescence becomes adulthood, as they move from being kids to having kids, as they move from dorms to houses, as they move from paying tuition to paying taxes. Everything becomes more complex.
That is not terrible, even if it is sobering on a day of glory such as this. I honor its glory—we all do. But the days that follow, the twenty-something years that become the thirty-something years, are what wise observers call the valley of the diapers. They are the settling-into-life years, where we begin to buy cars and houses and washing machines. There is a wonder to all of that, but there is also a harder face. Will we coherently connect what we believe with how we live? Especially so as we take up our lives in the secularizing, pluralizing, globalizing world that is ours? That is not only a question for students at the University of Chicago and at Wheaton College, but it is yours as well, almost graduates of Geneva College that you are.
This question of belief and behavior, of worldview and way of life, of doctrine and discipleship, is a question I began asking atGeneva in my very first semester. By unusual grace, Dr. Robert Tweed allowed me into an upper division seminar in New Testament themes. In almost every way I did not belong. And yet, week-by-week we would read, and we would talk through our reading in his office in an old home that is now gone, somewhere up on the ridge between here and Old Main.
Over the course of the semester each one came to know and love the Bible more fully, even as we came to know and love our professor more personally. That is always the best of education—the very best of a Geneva education—the mysterious place where the one who is teaching loves both what he is teaching and whom he is teaching. Our final project was to be from a Pauline epistle, and I chose Romans 12, the first few verses. Somewhat innocently as I look back, and yet clearly providential, as it was the first time that I saw the centrality of the relationship between belief and behavior, what another teacher, Francis Schaeffer, once called the critical connection of “the orthodoxy of doctrine and the orthodoxy of practice.”
That opened a door for me that has never closed. When I finally finished at Geneva I was still following that question, and through the years of my masters and doctoral studies, I kept asking and answering that same question through the long labor of love that learning is. And now, most of my life later, it is still at the heart of my vocation, a question that became my calling.
I will say this gently, even if plainly: for as good as four years of college can be, for as hard as four years of college can be, the years that follow will be both: wonderfully wonderful in ways that you have not yet imagined, and horribly hard in ways that you have not imagined either. The years will be both, joy and sorrow twined together in hundreds of different ways, embodied in the lives of each one of you. It cannot be other than that. In marriage and family, in work and worship, in the range of your relationships and responsibilities from the most personal to the most public, it will not be other than joy and sorrow twined together in the now-but-not-yet world that is ours.
Who will you be? What will matter to you? How will you work out what you have learned in the way that you live? Will you become men and women marked by the coherence of the kingdom? By a deeply graceful seamlessness between what you say matters most, and what in fact does? Will your educations be the light onto the path of your vocations, offering contours that make sense of what you do and why you do it, of where you live and with whom you live?
We all hope so. In fact we are here today to stand with you, hoping with you and for you as you leave the Beaver vale, entering into the villages and cities of the world.
What will be the core of your calling as you do so? What will be at the very center of your life? While we might gladly settle with the answers of Westminster and its catechism, I want to set another vision before you today. It comes from the prophet Jeremiah, speaking to the exiled people of God who were singing their songs along the rivers of Babylon. Always longing, sometimes weeping, they sang their songs, waiting in hope, living in hope. “How long, O Lord, how long….”
And into their longing the word of the Lord came through Jeremiah, “Seek the flourishing of the city. Pray for it. Build houses. Plant trees. Get married and have children. Know that when the city flourishes, you will flourish.” In many ways, they are difficult words to hear. Babylon was the capitol city of the conquering kingdom, the political face of a way of life that stood against God. Thousands of years later Babylon is in our ears the most iconically pagan city we know. Babylon of all places! Seek its flourishing? What could that possibly mean?
This is not a sermon today, but I do want you to hear these words of Jeremiah, words that echo across centuries and cultures, from pre-modern peoples to very modern, perhaps even postmodern peoples. They represent a vision of human flourishing that is as true for the exiles from Jerusalem as it is for the graduates of Geneva. Seek the flourishing of the cities that will be yours, and know that as those cities flourish, you will flourish, human beings will flourish.
Simply said, it is a vision of vocation for the common good, seeking the shalom of cities in and through our vocations. The word “flourish” that Jeremiah uses is the word “shalom”—the world as it ought to be, in every way. In business and engineering, in the arts and education, in law and medicine, in neighborhoods and towns small and large, in this society and all over the world. Always and everywhere it is a vision of vocation for the common good—for Babylon, of all places.
In my work in The Washington Institute we speak often of common grace for the common good. The best theology understands that God alone is the savior; we do not save ourselves. His grace is always amazing grace, and a saving grace it is. But the whole of life is his gift, what we call ordinary or common graces. Families that love us, dogwoods that blossom, the sun that shines, highways that are safe, laws that are just, surgeries that heal, a bowl of ice cream late at night and a cup of Earl Grey tea in the morning—common graces each one. They do not save us, they cannot save us, but they are graces to us, gifts of God to us.
Our lives are to be common grace for the common good. Whether we teach kindergarten or advanced calculus, whether we build cabinets or buildings, whether we listen to the hurts of trafficked women or of aging parents, whether we counsel high school students or multinational corporations, whether we write computer code or novels, whether we bandage the wounds of little ones or surgically repair their broken bones, whether we make wills or make laws, we are to be common grace for the common good.
The vision of Pro Christo et Patria is one worthy of your life, signed into the very seal of Geneva as it is. The words assume that Jesus who alone is Lord calls his people into every square inch of the whole of reality, giving ourselves away to the hope of history, seeking the flourishing of cities and countries and cultures the world over. For Christ’s sake, pro Christo— for the city, for the country, for the culture. Common grace for the common good.
That was the word of the Lord for Daniel—exile from Jerusalem that he was—whose vocation was to serve three despots, three mercurial rulers who wanted his wisdom for thinking through the complex social, political and economic responsibilities of the day. For most of his life, thatwas Daniel’s life, a vocation for the common good of his society. Agricultural policy, military strength, highway construction, water resources, political administration—the stuff of life for ordinary people in ordinary places, whether in Babylon or Beaver Falls.
That is to be our life, butchers, bakers, and candlestick-makers that we will be. With a smile I will say what all of you already know: most of us will not be Bono singing his songs along the three rivers ofPittsburgh, “How long, how long, O Lord, do we have to sing this song?” That summer night scores of thousands joined him in that ancient Hebrew psalm, somehow hearing their own hearts in his heart. But his work is his work, and we have ours. We have our own songs to sing.
- Will you have learned so well what is yours to have learned here along this Beaver River, that you will be able to translate the truest truths of the universe so that people who do not think like you and believe like you, still might be persuaded by you of what is right and just and fair?
- Will you be someone who takes the long calling of Jeremiah and Daniel into the 21st-century, seeking the flourishing of the city?
- Will you find your way into a vision of vocation for the common good?
- Will you be able to sing your song so that the whole world can hear?
May it be so in hundreds of wonderfully different ways, honored graduates that you are.
Dr. Steven Garber is Founder and Principal of the Washington Institute and author of The Fabric of Faithfulness, and parishioner at The Falls Church Anglican.
First published by Q Ideas for the Common Good
In her recent article in The Atlantic, “Women Still Can’t Have it All,” Anne-Marie Slaughter has prompted an all-too predictable firestorm of cultural commentary about the rights and plights of modern women by stoking once more the persistent and perennially elusive discussion about “it all” – getting it, having it, not having it, acquiring it eventually, missing it completely, and so on and so forth. Slaughter handles the topic better than most, with the winsomeness that comes when anyone is honest and humble about their own best-but-not-quite-perfect efforts. Still, the conclusions she suggests only perpetuate a discussion of women in terms of “work-life balance” and frankly, I am tired of that being the only framework offered to women.
As a Christian woman, in particular, I find this framework of “balance” to be mostly anemic. It is not wrong exactly – helping women find the vocabulary and mechanisms necessary to manage time and commitments adeptly and on an even keel is certainly a laudable goal. It is simply not sufficient. In my experience as a part-time working mother with three pre-school aged children, I find it doesn’t help me account for life as it is actually lived over time. As Annie Dillard writes, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our life,” so finding an honest answer for the angst that punctuates much of modern women’s work and family life requires more than mere aspiration or a far-off, “have it all” moment. It requires practical help for navigating the actual, ordinary choices and tensions that highly educated, capable women face, sometimes even contemplating them well-before they are in a position to actively or tangibly pursue commitments to marriage and motherhood.
The language and framework of balance is appealing on many levels, to be sure, as is the notion that we can each somehow get all we want someday, somehow, if the economy and politics and socialization all adapt accordingly, or what have you. Still, the fundamental challenge of balance is that it is not sustainable without a tremendous amount of effort. Anyone who has recently taught a 4-year-old to ride a bike can attest that constant motion is what makes sustained balance a go. Ironically, however, the frenzy of tireless effort and activity seems to be the exact state of being which “work-life balance” aims to avoid.
A balanced life is a restful life, we are told, yet the very act of balancing will exhaust even the most steadfast and exuberant 4-year-old at some point, and it is no different for the most steadfast, exuberant, ever-balancing woman. Balance will never – can never – yield restfulness on its own even as it may prove helpful, or even fruitful, in managing expectations, or allocating time and resources, or other practical questions in the short term. It is not a bad framework for thinking about these issues. It is simply not sufficient for the deeper question women are asking when they ask about “having it all.” It is not a sufficient answer for women who long for the peace, coherence, and sustainability of a rich and purposeful life in the face of tremendous expectations and an infinite array of practical limitations.
In her essay “Paying Attention To The Sky,” the late French philosopher Simone Weil writes, “the effective part of [our] will is not effort, which is directed toward the future. It is consent…” And for women, Christian women in particular, seeking to make sense of what can at times feel like incongruent callings, longings, or responsibilities, coming to understand our lives in terms of willful and intentional consent is far more sustainable than it is to orient our lives around perpetual striving or greater efforts to “balance.” This is not to say women ought not to work hard, to strive, or to employ a balanced view of limited time and resources – quite the opposite! Rather, what we are to strive for is a deeper understanding and living out of what it means to willfully and intentionally consent to those circumstances and tensions and longings, perhaps even disappointments, that give shape and meaning to our life as they are lived over time, even when the timelines don’t shake out exactly as we might hope. Our consent is not passive or merely “submissive” as some may be apt to misinterpret, it is our most effective act of will.
Slaughter is wise – even considerate – to clarify that she is, “well aware that the majority of American women face problems far greater than any discussed in this article. I am writing for my demographic—highly educated, well-off women who are privileged enough to have choices in the first place.” She acknowledges that it is not always-and-everywhere the same, which is almost always true, yet in the gospel Christians have a window into those things which are most deeply and universally true, even if those truths take on different manifestations given the unique contour and circumstance of an individual woman’s life.
Far away from the halls of power and knowledge where Slaughter admirably lives out her unique calling and commitments, in my own humble life as a mom and Executive Director of a small non-profit outside of Washington DC, I have found that a more helpful framework comes in thinking about work and life together as coherent aspects of a holistic and life-long vocation. What is more, as I lean into this conviction that all truth is God’s truth, I find that at the heart of the gospel itself, in the doctrine of the Incarnation, we are provided with a theological lens for thinking about calling in the midst of constraint that feels far more honest and practical to me in my life with small kids than the vague hope of “having it all.”
In her response to Slaughter’s piece, Atlantic staff writer Lori Gottlieb takes a stab at this herself, albeit in a snarky tone, when she asks, “How does a smart woman like Slaughter still believe in the childlike notion that people (of either gender) can have whatever they want whenever they want it, regardless of life’s intrinsic constraints?” In my own experience, this reality of “intrinsic constraint” is the more pressing, more perennial question for women. I spend little time, actually, on the notion of “having it all” because the nose wiping and grocery shopping and writing-during-naptime reality of my days provide a constant, tangible reminder that I do not, for the most part, need more choices about how to allocate or spend my time, I simply need help choosing what to pick.
On any given ordinary, unsexy day I may have a million options about how to manage, divide, or share my time and attentions between work and kids, or kids and friends, or kids and husband, or countless variations on this theme. Still, what I need help thinking about is how to make choices that will serve me well over time, and allow for honest and faithful stewardship of all the skills, longings and commitments that give shape, weight, and meaning to my life. Fortunately for Christians, more than any other group of people, we have a theology sufficient to help women take up these questions of constraint and to do so in the coherent context of holistic, lifelong vocation.
In the doctrine of the Incarnation we see a God who constrained himself in flesh, in history, in time and place, and was made man. He consented to this as an act of will – not effort, mind you- to demonstrate that His love is unbounded, but also to highlight the bounds of what it is to be human. By taking on bone and blood He gave our human constraints dignity and purpose, and He also tells us something fundamentally true about our circumstance. We are not – in this life at least – infinite beings. We cannot do, or have, or accomplish, all that we want by our own humble means. Yet even as we yield to constraint, in the upside-down-ness of the Christian gospel – the weak will be strong, the mourning will be comforted, the hungry will be satisfied–we again encounter the counterintuitive truth that our will is not nearly so capable in its effort as in its consent.
In the Incarnation God shows us practically and tangibly that, like His incarnate self, we too are constrained by flesh as fertility concerns, children’s health concerns, ailing parents, and so forth readily remind us. Likewise, our incarnate God lived in a particular moment in history, “…when Quirinius was governor of Syria.” And this is a fact that brings comfort as we seek to navigate the challenges and opportunities of our own particular time, be it women’s increased access to education, advanced technology, ease of travel, or countless other variables.
In Christ, the God-man, we see the finitude of time and acknowledge that we too have to live out the fullness of our calling in the ordinariness of passing days as a carpenter, or student, or mother, or what have you. Our aspirations take shape in time and in season even as Dillard reminds us we must live the days that we have.
And finally, the Incarnation bids us to remember that just as Bethlehem was a particular city with particular significance, and we likewise live our lives in the confines of a particular place. Even with the, “State-of-the-art videoconferencing facilities [that] can dramatically reduce the need for long business trips,” Slaughter eagerly hopes for, the reality of our embodied nature is that we simply cannot be everywhere all at once. In our own historical moment, when time and opportunity and biology are seemingly more adaptable than ever, this rootedness to place can help orient us in the midst of complex and ever-changing choices.
A few years ago I stumbled across the intriguing and fun-to-follow Uniform Project that illustrates well the value of constraint. The project, which began as an exercise in sustainable fashion, chronicled one woman’s commitment to wear the same black dress every day for a year while also creating a unique new look each day. The idea was drawn from – and named for – kids who wear a school uniform but inevitably find ways to modify its groomed look to suit their own personal style, whether that be with brightly-colored tights, rolled cuffs, un-tucked shirts or any number of other accessories and tweaks. For months I tracked each new day’s outfit, being dually captivated by the practical suggestion that there was a way to live fashionably with less laundry as well as the implicit suggestion that creativity thrives under constraint.
Specifically, seeing a picture of limitations giving rise to intentionality and creativity struck me as a principle is as true in my life as a part-time working mother, as it is in fashion. Unlike the suggestion that physical weariness, tight budgets, busy schedules and emotional demands of mothering children inevitably impede otherwise boundless potential, the Uniform Project instead suggested these constraints can help clarify calling and enhance the creativity necessary to pursue it in ways that can significantly deepen a sense of purpose and identity.
I think of the years I spent as an overly ambitious twenty-something who was all but paralyzed by the sheer abundance of possible careers to pursue, relationships to engage, cities to live, trips to take, degrees to acquire, and so on and so forth. Yet where my mind was once consumed by a never-ending calculus of hypothetical scenario planning, my life now is made rich by a number of actual, ordinary scenarios and circumstances which root and orient me in my life and work in a way that grants tremendous freedom and purpose. I no longer entertain a once-persistent suspicion that I might be called to practice law, for instance, because the exact number of times I have thought about prosecuting legal offenders when I am nursing a baby at night is zero. Likewise, my once strong interest to pursue corporate communications following a stint working with Senate leadership fizzled when I realized that a full three months had lapsed before it occurred to me to pick-up a newspaper or trade publication – probably a good indication that I was not as in love with the work as I once thought I was.
Yet just because I did not sustain once-dominant career interests after my children arrived is not to suggest that I ceased to have interests or ambitions, or that the entirety of my stewardship and responsibilities transferred wholly to the realm of childcare. Rather, paradoxically, I found that the new constraints on my time and energies helped me see my true loves and unique responsibilities more clearly. For instance, I was often surprised to find myself falling asleep at night thinking about a friend’s new project or idea and toying with ways I might help them find key staff or more funding or a new platform or channel of distribution to advance the project. I found myself using naptime to scribble ideas I wanted to pursue in writing, to catch up on certain blog commentaries or to study a difficult piece of literature. I found myself looking for ways to connect people and ideas in a variety of ways. I began to see how all of these same skills had been present to some degree in my earlier professional life and interests but that as disjointed pursuits they never assumed the efficiency and fulfillment – the coherence or clarity – that my limited availability now required.
I have found this to be equally true of many close friends who insist upon coherence between their pre-baby and post-baby life and identity. Over many years now, each has expressed surprise at seeing their deepest loves not snuffed out as children became the primary focus of their time and energies, but instead seeing those same loves re-imagined and reinvigorated in fresh manifestations.
My closest friend, who worked for many years with high school girls in youth ministry, began paying attention to the ways she spent her nights alone with her newborn son during the years her husband was in business school. She quickly noticed a growing love of design, a deepening appreciation for her quasi-rural heritage and industrial history, so she bought an antique letterpress and now four years later she has built a small and growing letterpress stationery business and recently launched a successful new design blog.
Another friend, a fine artist, often remarks that having her daughter so quickly after she was married was a strong catalyst to push her to pursue her art in a particularly disciplined and intentional way – a discipline she still pursues, seven years and two additional children later, with an increasing presence in city shops and local galleries. In her case, a love and gift for teaching music and art, as well as other subjects, has also greatly enriched her children’s academic life as she homeschools them each morning. She is not exactly the mother I would have ever predicted would take up homeschool education, but it as served as a sustainable and creative response to the constraint of abysmally poor public education in the inner city where she lives to be proximate to the art studio where she works every afternoon.
It is surely not true that all women face similar choices, or even share similar ideas about what accounts for a successful life, but it is always true that we long for a life that makes sense to us, that feels coherent in the face of complex and competing demands, and we need a better framework than “work-life balance” to do so. As Kathleen Norris writes, ““We want life to have meaning, we want fulfillment, healing, even ecstasy, but the human paradox is that we find these things by starting where we are, not where we wish we were.” The Incarnation can guide us as we seek to understand this counter-intuitive, upside-down way of thinking and bring it to bear in our own efforts to have it all as God would have it for us.
-Kate Harris is Executive Director for The Washington Institute, wife to a good man and mother of their three young children.
Dishes and Gene Kelly
First published by The Washington Institute July 2012.
Almost every morning when I empty the dishwasher, I think of Gene Kelly. Allow me to explain.
Like many of us, to get through graduate school I took on all manner of jobs; retail, physical labor, tutoring. For a stretch due to the shortage of teachers in my home state of California I was a substitute teacher. This ‘desperation as the mother of invention’ policy gave me the chance to sub across the K-12 spectrum, experiencing everything from early elementary eagerness to disengaged, dispirited high school seniors. It was a great look into the heart of young people, and into the heroic efforts made by teachers and staff throughout the education system.
There are of course a wealth of stories; breaking up kids pummeling other kids at recess, working with the low-achiever math class with kids who had already decided they were ‘dumb’, and reading the kind letter from home from the mother asking me to not run her daughter that day in gym because their family was keeping Ramadan and the daughter could not drink water at school. Whoops; I’d had her run the day before.
These are all good story fodder but the enduring memory of my time subbing remains Gene Kelly. I had a long-term assignment filling in for an elementary music teacher who was out sick, and in this role I showed the classic Kelly vehicle ‘An American in Paris’ over and over. I introduced students to the 1951 Academy Award winner for Best Picture over twenty times. By the nature of class length I watched the opening 45 minutes again and again and again. The introduction begins with several clips of famous Paris sights, and then Kelly’s voiceover invites us into his small apartment.
What follows is captivating; we move from voiceover to an absence of speech. From the narration of the entire city, we are now drawn into this tiny space. We see Kelly begin his day with a beautifully choreographed dance around his very cramped space; opening his eyes, pulling up his bed, yawning, grabbing his towel and kicking away his chair, pulling out his table, setting the table, eating his breakfast. There is not a wasted motion.
It took me a while before I realized what was happening, but being forced to watch it over and over again was a gift. The scene became more beautiful, not less, with each viewing and I finally caught on that Kelly was not waking up, he was dancing. And in this dancing he was bringing amazing dignity to the everyday movements required of each of us, bringing beauty and imagination and creativity to his world and work. The small acts of awakening suddenly took on elegance.
I was showing this movie on a break from a seminary that emphasized (emphasizes still) the dignity of work and all of our life under God. All we do is an extension of God’s gifts to us, and the opportunity we have to work is a gift from our being created in God’s image. God works. We work. And even in what can sometimes be boring we have a chance to live into the joy of living as God’s gifted children, sent to work for his good pleasure.
While home subbing I was meditating often on the implications of this grand Biblical theology, and just what it looks like for me when tasks seem tedious or boring. I was also contemplating the time-tested description of the Trinity’s movements together as perichoretic, as dancing in unison, choreographing the great works of creation, redemption, and sanctification. The clip of Kelly became a visual reminder, a balletic Brother Lawrence reminding me that even the smallest movement can take on grace and give God glory as we dance as he does.
Now, years later, one of my regular tasks is to empty our dishwasher each morning. I take this on as an act of love for my bride, and when I’m really on top of things I get it done the night before. But more often than not it happens in the morning and the pattern is the same; pull out the lower rack, empty the silverware tray, empty bowls and plates from the lower rack, pull out top rack, empty glasses and cups, drying any that are wet.
Frankly, it can be monotonous and boring work. But our sink and dishwasher area is a bit cramped, not unlike Kelly’s apartment, and when I’m finished there might be four or five cabinets open, a drawer needing shut, and the dishwasher in need of closing . . . and at that moment I’m always reminded of Kelly’s crisp movements and of how even my putting up our dishes can be done for the glory of God. So I try to shut everything with as little wasted motion as I can, finish with a light kick of the dishwasher door, flick on the kettle of hot water for tea, and head into the day in the hopes of continuing to live with as much God-inspired choreography as possible.