Q Los Angeles 2013
Arts + Entertainment
Science + Tech
Do You Feel Broken and Fragmented?
God has only one loom.
You wouldn't think so by the fragmentation of our lives. Our days look like the scrap floor of a studio, frayed bits of work, remnants snipped off family, a heap of countless fabrics—ministry, creativity, worship, volunteerism. We're ripped into pieces, and putting our lives together again is like turkey stitching a crazy quilt—driving us a bit crazy.
We've sheared the textile of our own lives. And it's time to put down the scissors. Why cut up 100% pure
That's what God's weaving. God doesn't experience a disconnect between our screens and our sanctuaries, between the people on our street and the paintbrushes on our desk.
have these labels for the bits and pieces of who we are and what we do. But God takes up the all the threads of being and weaves them into a seamless silk. He calls it
The Fabric of Work
He began the weaving in the beginning. "The Lord God took the man and placed him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it" (
). We read the translated word "work" and think that is what God meant for us to do. The Hebrew word is
. It is the same word in
, in the writing of the Ten Commandments, "Six days you shall work…." Six days you shall
The Fabric of Worship
But we know we're meant for more than work. We know we're meant to glorify God, to worship with our lives.
speaks to God's serious call to this life of worship: "When you have brought the people out of Egypt, you will worship God on this mountain." We read "worship." In Hebrew, the word reads
The Fabric of Service
And yet, God Himself calls us to even more than work and worship.
records the question and answer: "So now, O Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you? Only to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all his ways, to love him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul." We read the English translation: to serve—to minister unto God, unto his people, unto the needy, the seeking, the hurting. The Hebrew original:
The Fabric of Creativity
We work. We worship. We serve. But there's another integral element to our identity as human beings, the part that we've inherited from our Father who can't stop creating, producing designs, dreaming beauty.
1 Chronicles 28:21
refers to these innovative, imaginative efforts: "The divisions of the priests and Levites are ready for all the work on the temple of God, and every willing man skilled in any craft will help you in all the work." The text renders it as craft—creative acts, the arts—and God whispers again:
. He emphasizes his singular loom by whispering
twice in this one verse: work and craft are both expressed as
in the original Hebrew.
The ancient Hebrews even used the term
to describe the sacrifices offered in the temple. And that is the key. To live a fully devoted, interwoven life, we must see everything as a sacrifice to God.
Nearly four hundred years ago, a man peeling potatoes as an act of worship, Brother Lawrence, said, "Our sanctification does not depend as much on changing our activities as it does on doing them for God, rather than ourselves." We don't need to change activities from monetary work to missionary work to be devout. That very construct is false. All Christians are in full-time ministry. So we can stop tearing our lives into the categories of worldly and spiritual. We can put away the scissors of selfish ambitions and self-seeking comfort and self interests. If our lives feel fragmented, it's because we are tearing up God's one-piece fabric.
We wear God's seamless silk when we mindfully offer everything we do as a sacrifice to God. Paul explained this clearly to the Romans: "So here's what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering" (
Rom. 12:1 MSG
). When we see our lives as a sacrificial offering unto the Lord—
—our work becomes art and our art becomes ministry and our worship becomes serving and our serving becomes work.
Just as the "LORD our God is one LORD" (
), so our God weaves all of life on only one loom, and there is only one word for the whole of lives rightly lived in sacrifice to Him.
100% pure Avodah.
What can you do to remind yourself that there is no distinction between what is sacred and what is secular?
How can you live each task as a sacrifice unto the Lord?
Editor's Note: The piece was originally published on
The High Calling
. The image above was taken by
That ending just made me smile. :)
I wonder if certain faith traditions struggle with this more than others— the separation of life and spirit? Thinking back to Genesis, I'm reminded that they aren't separable: Spirit breathed life.
avodah - yes!
living sacrifice - yes again!
Well said, Ann.
God does not ask us to split ourselves into pieces, we do that to ourselves.
ThAks for reminding us we don't need to.
"...it's time to put down the scissors..." Amen to that.
Beautiful. Work, worship, service, creativity. All of it sacred, yes? Each one a tool to draw us closer - to one another and to Him.
I was excited to read this article--in part because it reminds me of the great work that David Miller has been doing with the Avodah Institute, which became the Princeton University Faith and Work Initiative.
Ann, you talk about the concept with such poetry and beauty.
Thank you Ann. You always weave together with beautiful words the things I have been pondering. I found myself whispering this morning - "Don't complain Linda. Do it as unto the Lord." So often there are separate little compartments that seem "worthwhile" and it is easy to forget it is all just a part of a whole.
Lovely. You always bring clarity with such beauty, in a way like no one else I read. Thank you!
Powerful imagery and profound insight. Holiness is living life according to the way God sees things, so we need to engage life as the created and creative.
Excellent advice, especially for me now as I've been forced to dial down my frenetic pace due to a physical problem. Forced simplicity.
One question in response to your discussion questions: Is there NO distinction between secular and holy? Really? The OT prophet said the priests "...are to teach my people the difference between the holy and the common and show them how to distinguish between the unclean and the clean." (Ezek 44:23, NIV)
Seems to me there should be some distinction. Ordinary and extraordinary. Common and uncommon. God breathes inspiration into our daily lives, true enough, but some things we do need to be abandoned completely, not merely reinterpreted.
Rich's comment above is interesting. Yes, there is a distinction between the sacred and the profane. Certainly I have the experience of encountering the sacred, and encountering profanity.
Clean or unclean may refer to things like dietary restrictions in the old testament law. Or it could be the quality of my own thoughts. I think what we're looking at in Ann's blog is that as we maintain our personal awareness that each thing we do (like typing this comment, for example) is done in His presence, and as service to Him, then that creates the opportunity to live and worship in an integrated way--to have integrity. And that doesn't negate the fact that there really ARE aspects of the world--or even of ourselves--that are much less than sacred.
Here Rich might say that if there are aspects of me that are not what I would want to offer to God (that is, yes! I am a sinner), then why would I want to see my life as a whole-cloth enterprise to be consciously lived for (given to) the Lord? And my answer is that my work to deal with my shadow stuff, my sin, greed, all those things--IS a conscious offering to him. The spotlight in on the process, which is continuing worship, to the prayerful best of my ability. I think it's about attitude, and prayerfully maintaining that attitude.
I am a month late in coming to this Q article, but want to add my voice to the "Amen." All Christians are in full-time ministry all the time.
I needed to read this reminder again about the word Adovah. (you had mentioned it at Relevant10) I started out in a place where your worship seemed to only include working in the church ministries that actually taught kids. It is taking me a while to realized that EVERYTHING I do is an act of worship. When I sing, write, snap a photo, or pick up my paintbrush, or scrub a floor or dish -serving my family... God cherishes every bit of it.
I'm sure this article was written a long while ago... but I only just now came across it.
I understand that whether I eat or drink or work or whatever I do I should do all for God's glory but is there room for enjoying what you do? How hard should a Christian seek to find a job that he/she enjoys? Are we to take from this that by having the right view of work we will somehow enjoy what was once mundane and even depressing? Is it a sign of “selfish ambitions and self-seeking comfort and self interests “ if we put an emphasis on finding a career that one might enjoy, find pleasure in and even some sort of fulfillment?
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