Thoughts at Thirty: A Journey From Vanity to Obscurity

Thoughts at Thirty: A Journey From Vanity to Obscurity

Guest Post by Rachel Blackmon Bryars

Invisible obsure prideThis is the last month I will spend as a 30-year-old. It is also the month after a pregnancy-related incident sent me to the hospital for four days, where doctors said things like, “This could have been fatal.” Both of these events have me thinking a lot about time these days. Specifically, what was I doing with my time when I was 20, and what am I doing with my time now? How have my heart and habits changed over the years, and has it been for the better? Melodrama aside, if I had died last month would God be pleased with how I spent my time?

Life is a structure we build, piece by piece, that takes the shape of what we love and what we spend our time doing. Our heart attitudes and mental habits are the raw materials we use during construction. Our worldview is the shade that colors the whole thing.

Ten years ago, I was spending my time building a structure that looked like a monument— a monument to me. Since my heart attitudes and mental habits were mostly self-centered, my monument was flimsy, built of cardboard. I loved the Lord, but my worldview centered on a quest for personal grandeur and fulfilled dreams instead of the pursuit of a faithful response to a loving God. You could say my cardboard monument was coated in deceptive glitter.

At 20 years old, I was a college student who poured my time into activities that brought me a sense of accomplishment: Earning good grades and awards, playing varsity soccer, heading up the school newspaper, interning for the local TV station, and auditioning for modeling jobs and roles in movies and commercials in Miami. The activities themselves may have been fine pursuits, but I placed too much emphasis on how puffed up they made me feel. I invested very little time in service. Some friends of mine spent a lot of time helping others, but their efforts seemed a bit boring. I went on mission trips and completed service projects for school, but mostly, I pursued activities that fueled my inflated sense of achievement.

When I graduated, I sent out audition tapes to TV news stations and even a reality TV show (hey, I may be 30, but technically, I am a millennial who relates all too well to some telling stereotypes of our generation). Out of my options, I chose the job I felt had the most promise and prestige because it was in a larger-than-entry-level media market. I was the lowest person on the totem pole as the weekend morning reporter, but I aspired to quickly move up, move to a larger station, and work my way into reporting for a national news network. I was certain my life was destined for super-grand things since I was such a special snowflake.

Pride Goes Before The Fall

As the Virginia leaves turned to crimson and soon after I celebrated my 22nd birthday, I found myself hunched down in the empty hallway of a local high school where I was reporting a story. I pulled out something I had stuffed in my purse that morning and intentionally not yet examined. Through the dim morning light that trickled in through the windows, I stared down at a pregnancy test. It was positive and I wore no ring.

In the months that followed, it was as if God held a flame to my cardboard monument— a purifying mercy that felt agonizing. I left my job and moved to Washington, D.C. to start a family. For the first time in my life, I spent the majority of my time in service to others— a husband and baby. It was a huge shock to my system and I alternated between outbursts of anger and depression. The structure of my time may have changed, but my heart attitudes, mental habits, and worldview were still largely the same. I kept looking over at the ashes of my monument, wishing I could rebuild it. I often let my mind jump on a negative train of thought that always led to despair: “This can’t be my life, this just can’t be my life.”

As my daughter grew into a toddler and another baby arrived, the lonely, monotonous days seemed to stretch into infinity with no end in sight. I felt the world was passing me by. I adored my kids, but felt sidelined into oblivion as a stay-at-home mother in a city where the first question is often, “Where do you work?” I decided I would look for a full-time job and start re-building my resume.

If Anyone Wishes to Come After Me, He Must Deny Himself

I began interviewing for work I thought would make me feel important. Still, something quiet and powerful whispered into my heart: “Come follow me. Take up your cross, don’t just tolerate it. Deny yourself. Join me in the unlovely place— washing dirty feet and meeting needs. No one else sees you, but I see you.” I felt a little ashamed that my “cross” was so lightweight compared to true suffering, but I still felt the acute pain that comes with parting with what we love. It hurt to spend my time in obscurity because I worshipped achievement. Perhaps God was urging me to let go of everything I wanted to be: talented, important, accomplished, and special and truly follow Him wherever it took me— even if that meant I went no further than the laundry room.

I wondered at God’s strange work. I had friends who longed to be stay-at-home mothers but felt called (or had) to work outside the home, and here I was, longing to work outside the home feeling called to cheerfully continue being a stay-at-home mother.[1] It seemed God was less concerned with how we spent our time as much as with how our hearts and minds were sanctified as we went about our work. It was clear my heart needed the humbling that came from working hard at something that brought no accolades and no attention. It seemed God wanted me to be at peace with my invisible position at home to transform my heart from its hard, self-centered posture into something more malleable and more content with loving and serving my family.

Be Transformed By the Renewing of Your Mind

The journey toward joy begins with a transformed heart and mind. Some essential new habits helped in the process. I began to replace my negative thoughts with thoughts of gratitude, such as, “I’m thankful my desire for a fulfilling career is a first world problem in the first degree.” Instead of focusing on the laboriousness of at-home work, I started paying attention to the little joys and pleasures, such as the ability to stop at a playground on a whim mid-day, or my alone time during naps. I began to suffocate envious thoughts that threatened to sap my soul and focused on taking sincere delight in other people’s accomplishments. I meditated on the truth that I am a speck in the scheme of time and eternity by reflecting on 1 Peter 1:24—“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field. The grass withers, and the flowers fall.” I also began to look for the humor that heals. Only a sprightly humorist could create toddlers, so on disaster days, I forced myself to laugh about the moments of insanity. Lastly, I refused to miss a week of Grace DC Presbyterian Church’s (PCA) mother’s study group in downtown D.C., where I gleaned strength from the wisest group of women I have ever known. Their companionship and godly examples sustained me more than they knew.

As my heart attitudes and mental habits started to change, so did my worldview. Loving and serving God by loving and serving others was transformed from a dull distraction into the main event. I’ll never forget standing in my kitchen one night after a long day. The kids were well fed and had been cozily tucked into bed. The house was clean and the laundry was done. I was exhausted, but a surprising thought sprang to my mind: “I enjoy this.” Thanks be to God.

Forgetting What Lies Behind and Reaching Forward

As we have added more children to our family, I have found more and more joy in the letting go—in losing my life to gain it. In the past eight years, I’ve pictured God asking me, “Rachel, if you never did much in your life besides be a faithful wife and mother, would you be okay if you knew that was what I had asked of you?” At first, the honest answer was no. Slowly, the answer has become yes. I still struggle. Some days I want the glittery cardboard back. Mostly, I want to be more like the men and women of our faith who have learned the secret to joy reflected in this excerpt from Bernadette Farrell’s hymn, “All That Is Hidden” (1957):

        If you would speak of me,

        live all your life in me.

        my ways are not the ways that you would choose;

        my thoughts are far beyond yours,

        as heaven from earth:

        If you believe in me my voice will be heard.

        If you would rise with me,

        rise through your destiny:

        do not refuse the death which brings you life,

        for as the grain in the earth

        must die for rebirth,

        So I have planted your life deep within mine.

        All that is hidden will be made clear.

        All that is dark now will be revealed.

I marvel at how much can change in ten years and how much God can change a heart. These days, I still spend the vast majority of my time working in the home and began homeschooling my oldest daughter for the first time this year. These vocations would have felt completely undesirable to me ten years ago. Now, this work is the source of my greatest joy, even when it gets rough. I feel like I am building something lovely and solid with my time because my heart posture has changed. In God’s loving mercy, there have even been cool opportunities for outside work now and then that involve a different goal than personal grandeur.

I wonder what the next ten years will bring. I wonder what else will change. I pray this will remain— that God will lead me to follow his blueprint, not my own. Even in the humbling, there is no other path to peace.

Rachel Blackmon Bryars is a writer and a mother of four (soon-to-be-five) children under the age of eight. She enjoys humor that pokes fun at millennials. Follow her on Twitter @RachelBryars.


[1] This is by no means meant to be a case for all mothers to stay at home. My personal sanctification has required much humbling, which has required being a stay-at-home mother. We are all on different journeys with different callings.

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What I Learned My First Year of Teaching

What I Learned My First Year of Teaching

Guest Article by Kari Mosbacker (missmosbacker.wordpress.com)

New TeacherWell, here we are. Nearly one year since my last blog post.

It’s amazing what you can learn in a year. A year can make you, break you, and change your life. My life has been irreparably changed. I waded into a most familiar, unfamiliar world. Let me explain.

I’ve been encapsulated in the educational sphere my whole life. I grew up with a father who is not only an educator, but a seasoned pro who travels the world consulting and is set to be a keynote speaker on Christian education in China this year. I’ve been behind the scenes for years. I’ve witnessed the triumphs, tragedies, and the occasional and unavoidable politics. I had a pretty good sense of what I was getting myself into.

No amount of insight, knowledge, or preparation could have prepared me for my first year of teaching. I was given a chance. There were people who took a chance on me, and it was something I vowed never to take for granted. It was the hardest year of my life, but I wouldn’t have changed a thing. I learned more in that year than all of my years combined. I survived it and so can you! Here is a short synopsis of what I learned:

Work Hard
Give it all you have. Everyday. You will mess up (goodness knows I made some mistakes). Learn from them, try to pick yourself back up, and work harder. Preparing lessons, making tests, grading, writing project rubrics, studying your material takes hours upon hours to prepare. Stick with it. Put in effort on the front end and it will pay dividends later.

Be a team player
The most important thing you can do as a teacher is remain teachable. You don’t know it all, so don’t act like you do. To be a good teacher, you have to be a good student. Some days you will want to vent to a colleague (or 7). Choose them carefully. Create bonds, but don’t become known as “The Complainer”. To do this ministry, you have to partake in a gospel-centered community as Christ intended.

Continue your education
Being in a classroom everyday has made me miss college very much. I enjoyed writing papers (most of the time). I enjoyed creating something by hand. I loved creating a thesis from something as simple as a coed’s scrapbook. It was like dreaming on paper. Keep stretching your knowledge of your subject matter. Staying stationary is a recipe for boredom. It’s hard to find the time for this, but do whatever you can. Read a book, watch a TED talk, take a class, get a degree.

Get sleep
Set a “bedtime”. Turn off your email. Sleep until eleven on a Saturday morning if you have to.

Rely on Jesus
This is the most important advice that I can give. You will be tested on this spiritual battlefield. Any weakness you have will be thrown in your face. The enemy will whisper, “You aren’t good enough.” Your only hope of survival is looking at his death. He made your atonement possible. You may fail, but He didn’t. Remind yourself of the gospel everyday. Love others in the best way you can. Anticipate their needs. Know when to seek help from others, whether from a professional counselor, your peers, an accountability partner, your spouse, family, or friends. You can’t do it alone. No one can.

As I embark on my second year, by no means do I have it all figured out. I will make mistakes this year. I will have to ask for forgiveness. I will have to beg the Lord to use me despite my shortcomings and failures, but I will give it my all. Why? Because “Jesus paid it all, so all to Him I owe.”

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What about Christian Schools and the Common Core?

What about Christian Schools and the Common Core?

Guest post by G. Boyd Chitwood, Ed.D.

common core One could take a Luddite/Troglodyte position and oppose the common core simply because it’s the government (federal or state) coming to help or because it’s trying to bring school systems which are sub-standard on average up to a reasonable standard above which many Christian and independent schools work all the time. We could use fightin’ words and obscurantist/elitist vernacular.

But let’s not, and not even say we did. Also, let’s focus. For a start, set aside the macro arguments of bringing public school systems up and consider that one another time. Also, for now, set aside the question of what part the common core might play in the practical future for Christian and independent schools (because no school will remain untouched by the core). Consider only the question of what part common core standards may or should have in the ideal future of Christian and independent schools.

Some burrow in on one area or another of the standards; for example, whether they forsake too much classic literature in favor of technically challenging but questionably valuable white paper writing. If we dig into the real challenges of understanding, contextualizing, communicating about, and creating arguments using truly difficult technical writing, we can’t so easily brush off the common core as a dumbing down of the curriculum. We can disagree from now ‘til Sunday with some choices made, but it’s not so simple just to call it simplified. Look, for example, at a 7th grade, criterion-referenced, end-of-course exam in the common core arsenal which calls the student to answer text-based questions from topically connected selections in history, persuasive argument and technical background. Challenging well the student’s analytical abilities, the test then turns to a synthetic challenge of weaving together multiple threads from the varied selections into a coherent whole as a position or argument or accessible portrait of an idea. That sort of assessment and expectation doesn’t lay so very far below the highest ideals in Christian and independent school curricula. Of course, a tough test question does not a consistently rigorous curriculum make. But let’s not dismiss it out of hand as “below us.”

Rhetorically, this curricular excursion might seem so far to set the stage for support of the common core standards as somehow useful for Christian and independent school education. I would say we should not remain ignorant of them, even as we should commit to know the best of action and fundamental research across the educational landscape while also including a savvy reconnaissance of what will affect that landscape, for our schools and all others.

BUT….yes, there it is….But, I would offer a challenge to the “standards” part more than the “common core” part. This is admittedly a glancing coverage of a deep and wide educational subject, but I offer a thought as perhaps a start at a more thorough consideration. There’s an instructive philosophical history to study on the pragmatism of Dewey and its effect on educational ideology. Perhaps even more light shines on the subject from review of the realist turn in fear of Sputnik advances. From this turn issued standards-based curricula and high stakes testing. So many are so used to dishing out so much invective against high stakes testing that little attention is paid to what standards themselves do.

Perhaps that sounds silly. Aren’t standards just another way of saying that we have high expectations for our students’ learning, and even more fundamentally, aren’t standards just a definition of goal-directed behavior in our teaching? This is not a monolithic subject but, fairly broadly, I would say “no”.

Standards are where so much of today’s curricular creation starts. Lessons are built from or around or correlated with standards. And the standards being used are relatively low-level, highly analytic sub-sub categories of broader strands describing student behaviors and abilities. Standards which birth instructional lessons and units are analytically derived component parts taken as necessarily constitutive of the ‘whole’ of strands behaviors. The synthetically perceived “educated student” is seen as an almost necessary byproduct of the student trained in skill after skill and content nugget after content nugget.

Even more, when we start with standards we work our way back through a series of lessons which almost always make a constant velocity assumption about students and their learning. Program my pacing to cover my standards through the given instructional time on task. I’m jumping quickly here, but consider whether the learning done by real children isn’t more a problem or opportunity in acceleration, to speak from the descriptions of physics. We gain traction with student learning early-on and then build momentum. As engaged learners, students – well taught and lead – seek out much of the learning for themselves as we guide them in activities which call for greater learning to reach personally affirmed goals of understanding and communicating, of doing and creating.

Don’t we in the Christian and independent school seek to start with the student, directing our attention to the lofty goals of higher learning, and equipping the student along the way to continue pursuing that higher ground. All so much vacuity and vain imaginings?

Look with a colder eye on the process of connecting standards with classroom activities. I find the process missing students rather than connecting with them when executed by all but the most masterful of teachers. And those teachers can connect all the more completely and effectively if they have a synthetically understood picture of a student well-trained, relationally engage the student they have today in class, and pursue rich and real teaching and learning with the student along that growth path.

Does any of it ring true to you? Does it speak to what we treasure in the Christian and independent school above most all else? Does it touch upon the fundamentals of teaching as such rather than just in a particular school setting? Teachers and students as the heart and soul of every day and every action. Teachers and standards left in great measure to the textbook researchers, the curriculum committees and the test creators. Standards most certainly have their role, but is it as daily guide to the teacher?

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11 Simple Concepts to Become a Better Leader

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The following article is posted with permission from Dave Kerpen. Mr. Kerpen is the New York Times bestselling author of two books, Likeable Social Media and Likeable Business.

As you read this article, replace “customer or client” with parent and/or student. Substitute business for school. In doing so you will discover how relevant this principles are to leading a Christian School.

11 Simple Concepts to Become a Better Leader
Being likeable will help you in your job, business, relationships, and life. I interviewed dozens of successful business leaders for my last book, to determine what made them so likeable and their companies so successful. All of the concepts are simple, and yet, perhaps in the name of revenues or the bottom line, we often lose sight of the simple things – things that not only make us human, but can actually help us become more successful. Below are the eleven most important principles to integrate to become a better leader:

1. Listening

When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen. – Ernest Hemingway

Listening is the foundation of any good relationship. Great leaders listen to what their customers and prospects want and need, and they listen to the challenges those customers face. They listen to colleagues and are open to new ideas. They listen to shareholders, investors, and competitors.

2. Storytelling

Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world today. -Robert McAfee Brown

After listening, leaders need to tell great stories in order to sell their products, but more important, in order to sell their ideas. Storytelling is what captivates people and drives them to take action. Whether you’re telling a story to one prospect over lunch, a boardroom full of people, or thousands of people through an online video – storytelling wins customers.

3. Authenticity

I had no idea that being your authentic self could make me as rich as I’ve become. If I had, I’d have done it a lot earlier. -Oprah Winfrey

Great leaders are who they say they are, and they have integrity beyond compare. Vulnerability and humility are hallmarks of the authentic leader and create a positive, attractive energy. Customers, employees, and media all want to help an authentic person to succeed. There used to be a divide between one’s public self and private self, but the social internet has blurred that line. Tomorrow’s leaders are transparent about who they are online, merging their personal and professional lives together.

4. Transparency

As a small businessperson, you have no greater leverage than the truth. -John Whittier

There is nowhere to hide anymore, and businesspeople who attempt to keep secrets will eventually be exposed. Openness and honesty lead to happier staff and customers and colleagues. More important, transparency makes it a lot easier to sleep at night – unworried about what you said to whom, a happier leader is a more productive one.

5. Team Playing

Individuals play the game, but teams beat the odds. -SEAL Team Saying

No matter how small your organization, you interact with others every day. Letting others shine, encouraging innovative ideas, practicing humility, and following other rules for working in teams will help you become a more likeable leader. You’ll need a culture of success within your organization, one that includes out-of-the-box thinking.

6. Responsiveness

Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it. -Charles Swindoll

The best leaders are responsive to their customers, staff, investors, and prospects. Every stakeholder today is a potential viral sparkplug, for better or for worse, and the winning leader is one who recognizes this and insists upon a culture of responsiveness. Whether the communication is email, voice mail, a note or a tweet, responding shows you care and gives your customers and colleagues a say, allowing them to make a positive impact on the organization.

7. Adaptability

When you’re finished changing, you’re finished. -Ben Franklin

There has never been a faster-changing marketplace than the one we live in today. Leaders must be flexible in managing changing opportunities and challenges and nimble enough to pivot at the right moment. Stubbornness is no longer desirable to most organizations. Instead, humility and the willingness to adapt mark a great leader.

8. Passion

The only way to do great work is to love the work you do. -Steve Jobs

Those who love what they do don’t have to work a day in their lives. People who are able to bring passion to their business have a remarkable advantage, as that passion is contagious to customers and colleagues alike. Finding and increasing your passion will absolutely affect your bottom line.

9. Surprise and Delight

A true leader always keeps an element of surprise up his sleeve, which others cannot grasp but which keeps his public excited and breathless. -Charles de Gaulle

Most people like surprises in their day-to-day lives. Likeable leaders under promise and over deliver, assuring that customers and staff are surprised in a positive way. We all like to be delighted — surprise and delight create incredible word-of-mouth marketing opportunities.

10. Simplicity

Less isn’t more; just enough is more. -Milton Glaser

The world is more complex than ever before, and yet what customers often respond to best is simplicity — in design, form, and function. Taking complex projects, challenges, and ideas and distilling them to their simplest components allows customers, staff, and other stakeholders to better understand and buy into your vision. We humans all crave simplicity, and so today’s leader must be focused and deliver simplicity.

11. Gratefulness

I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. -Gilbert Chesterton

Likeable leaders are ever grateful for the people who contribute to their opportunities and success. Being appreciative and saying thank you to mentors, customers, colleagues, and other stakeholders keeps leaders humble, appreciated, and well received. It also makes you feel great! Donor’s Choose studied the value of a hand-written thank-you note, and actually found donors were 38% more likely to give a 2nd time if they got a hand-written note!

The Golden Rule: Above all else, treat others as you’d like to be treated.

By showing others the same courtesy you expect from them, you will gain more respect from coworkers, customers, and business partners. Holding others in high regard demonstrates your company’s likeability and motivates others to work with you. This seems so simple, as do so many of these principles — and yet many people, too concerned with making money or getting by, fail to adopt these key concepts.

Which of these principles are most important to you — what makes you likeable?

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Implementing Online Learning to Create New Revenue Streams

SevenStar Academy

Implementing Online Learning to Create New Revenue Streams

As a Christian school administrator you understand the importance of being a good financial steward. Every decision made in your school must be balanced against a budget. And as a private school, you don’t have access to the same state resources as your public competitors. Often, raising tuition is just not an option—your school families are working within tight budgets, as well. Large donations are also hard to come by. That is why it is so important the keep your eye out for new sources of revenue.

One emerging opportunity for Christian schools to create new revenue streams is online christian learning. Schools that implement online learning programs can charge tuition for their courses, offer online courses to students outside the school, and even launch an entire school online. Online learning programs allow a school to cater to students well outside of their geographic limits, expanding their reach to the entire world.

Charging Tuition for Online Courses

Most Christian schools cannot afford to go it alone when they decide to offer online courses. Typically, schools choose to partner with an online learning provider that delivers the course content online and often facilitates the courses with its own teachers. This provides a high level of flexibility for students and schools. Students can start courses at any time and complete them at their own pace, while schools can scale courses easily to fit any class size.

Schools can choose to charge no tuition to attend their online courses, they can choose to charge just enough to cover their costs, or, if they are in search of new revenue streams, they can charge a reasonable amount above their costs. Many parents are willing to pay these fees in exchange for allowing their children to have access to a deep course catalog and a flexible learning schedule.

Reaching Students Outside Your School

Homeschoolers and Christian students who attend public schools need not be considered lost opportunities for revenue. Sometimes, these students (or their parents) are in search of just one or two course options to either:

  • Supplement their homeschooling.

  • Add a Christian element to their public school education.

Your school’s online courses could be the answer to either of these needs. Outside students do not need to arrange transportation or find time during school hours to attend online courses, yet, with the right Christian online learning provider, they will still receive high-quality, accredited courses integrated with the Christian message.

Online courses also offer a great opportunity to impress homeschool or public school families with your school’s dedication to academic rigor and Christian values, potentially inspiring them to start thinking about enrolling their children at your school full time.

Starting an Online School

Once Christian schools realize the revenue advantages for offering classes online, they often decide to take it to the next level and build out an online Christian school, giving students across the country and around the world the opportunity to attend their high-quality, Christ-focused classes for a complete course of education. With the right online learning partners, this is possible, too. At the higher levels of partnership, Christian online learning providers will work with Christian schools to customize courses, train teachers, create branded marketing material, and anything else required to translate their educational expertise, experience, and spiritual commitment into the online domain.

Discover what many Christian schools already know: online learning is the way to grow your school and its revenue while maintaining Christian values and expanding course offerings. Download our free white paper for Christian school educators, “How to Thrive Financially: Christian Schools, Finance and Online Courses Guide," to learn more.

For more information on Sevenstar Academy, click here.

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How To Reduce Stress in Your Life and Leadership

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This is a simple and personal article on how to reduce stress and live with less anxiety. There are no magic pills but there are reliable principles and practices. They are simple in concept but hard to consistently apply. But they work.

There are a lot of stresses in our lives. As superintendent of a large school I live with a degree of low level stress that can spike significantly depending on people and circumstances. As a human being I am daily confronted with the stresses of daily living—family, financial, social, and physical, not to mention the stress that can be brought to bear from national and international affairs.

As Jesus said, “In the world you will have tribulation.” But he also said, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.”

I want peace and I bet you do too—especially peace of mind and soul.
Over the last several months the Lord has taught me how to biblically and effectively reduce stress and anxiety. I am learning to be at peace just a Paul learned to be content (Phil. 4:11).

I have come to realize and accept that I cannot avoid situations or people that produce anxiety and stress, I can only respond to them correctly or incorrectly, effectively or ineffectively, biblically or unbiblically.

Here are the simple principles I am learning to practice. Even though the circumstances have not changed, I have experienced much less anxiety when I focus on doing the following things.

Pray for Wisdom
This is a two-fold prayer for wisdom; the wisdom to respond to the situation correctly and the wisdom to deal with difficulties biblically. Wisdom comes from the illumination of the Holy Spirit applying God’s word to our minds, which requires that we make the study and memorization of God’s word a priority in our lives or we cannot have wisdom. Wisdom also comes from the counsel of spiritually mature and biblically literate Christians.

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Rom. 12:2

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. James 1:5 (Note that in context this verse is referring to the wisdom needed to respond to trials properly (See 1:1–4)

But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. James 3:17–18 (Note the characteristics of God-given wisdom)

A wise man is full of strength, and a man of knowledge enhances his might, for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory. Prov. 24:5–6

Learn to Listen
Listening is the handmaiden to wisdom. We cannot grow in wisdom and understanding if we focus on talking and defending. If one is to respond wisely to trials and tribulations brought on by the actions of others we must stop and listen honestly to what others are saying. Seek more to understand than to defend and explain. As Stephen Covey wrote, “seek first to understand and then to be understood.”

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19–20

When words are many, transgression is not lacking, but whoever restrains his lips is prudent. Prov. 10:19

Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent. Prov. 17:27–28

Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy. Prov. 27:6

Speak the Truth in Love
People are the primary source of stress and anxiety. Of course, we usually think that other people produce stress and that we don’t. The truth is that we also produce stress for others.

We make two mistakes in responding to the words and actions of others that produce stress in our lives. We avoid speaking the truth so we are not dealing honestly with others. We are avoiding conflict. We are more concerned with being comfortable than we are promoting truth.

Our other mistake is to permit the pendulum to swing in the opposite direction. We are quick to speak the truth but we are not motivated by the welfare of the other person; we are motivated by our welfare. We are not speaking the truth in a loving manner.

Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ. Eph. 4:15

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 1 Cor. 13:1

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Gal. 6:1

By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.

Just Do the Right Thing
After praying for wisdom to know how to respond and after listening and speaking the truth in love, commit yourself to do the right thing, period. We are not responsible for the actions of others, we are responsible for ours.

But be careful. The right thing may not be what you perceive to be right. The right thing is what is right based on biblical principles and the wise, if uncomfortable, advice of others.

Doing the right thing may cost you. The right thing may require turning the other cheek. The right thing may be graciously and willingly submitting to authority even if you believe that authority is wrong. Doing the right thing may, and often does, require that you humble yourself. Doing the right thing may require giving up your rights, denying yourself. Doing the right thing most certainly requires holding your tongue and not gossiping about others and how they are mistreating you.

Just do what is right. We cannot control what others do. We can seldom control our circumstances. What we can control, as a Fruit of the Spirit, are our words and actions.

But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil. But if anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if anyone would sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. And if anyone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who begs from you, and do not refuse the one who would borrow from you. Matt. 5:39–42

Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor. James 4:10–12

Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you. Heb. 13:17

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Phil. 2:3–4

Trust the Lord’s Providence
After praying for wisdom, listening to others, speaking the truth in love, and then doing the right thing—leave the outcome to God’s wisdom, goodness, and providence. You have done what you can and should do, you must trust in and be willing to accept God’s providence even if it is a frowning one.

God does not promise that if we do the right things others will do right by us. He does not promise that if we do the right thing he will prevent bad things from happening to us. To the contrary, the Bible is very clear—the righteous often suffer unjustly. Accept it. Expect it. Even embrace it as good for you.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. James 1:2ff

Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you. 1 Pet. 5:5–7

The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil. 4:5–7

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. Rom. 8:28

Who has spoken and it came to pass, unless the Lord has commanded it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that good and bad come? Why should a living man complain, a man, about the punishment of his sins. Lam. 3:37–38

In the day of prosperity be joyful, and in the day of adversity consider:God has made the one as well as the other, so that man may not find out anything that will be after him. Ecclesiastes 7:14

But he said to her, “You speak as one of the foolish women would speak. Shall we receive good from God, and shall we not receive evil?” In all this Job did not sin with his lips. Job 2:10

For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die … a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. Ecclesiastes 3:1ff

Life is full of trouble and turmoil but our hearts and minds do not need to be troubled. We can reduce stress and anxiety in our lives but only if we apply biblical principles to our thoughts and actions:

  • Pray for Wisdom
  • Learn to Listen
  • Speak the Truth in Love
  • Do the Right Thing
  • Trust the Lord’s Providence

If you and I will learn to consistently apply these principles then we can learn:

not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Phil 4:5–7

Shalom

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How to Apply the Ethos of the Craftsman to Our Leadership

gunsmith

This is not another article on leadership admonishing us to be more productive, relational, or visionary. There are too many of those. Instead, this is an article about how to apply the ethos and values of craftsmanship to our leadership.

I first ran across this concept in an inspiring article in the Art of Manliness blog.* I am borrowing heavily from that article. My contribution is providing examples and biblical references for tailoring the principles of the craftsman’s ethos to school leadership. The best place to begin is to quote the opening of the article from which mine is derived:

Across cultures and time, the archetype of the craftsman has represented man’s ability to create and has been the mark of mature manhood. He is homo faber – man the creator. Instead of passively consuming and letting things happen to him, the craftsman fashions the world to his liking and proactively shapes and influences it …

When we think of the archetypal craftsman, images of a bearded man clad in a leather apron and rolled-up sleeves, toiling away in his workshop producing beautiful and useful items comes to mind. What’s interesting is that the ancient Greeks had a much more inclusive idea of the craftsman than our modern conception. Besides masons, potters, and carpenters, the ancient Greeks included jobs now considered “knowledge professions” like doctors, legislators, and administrators under the craftsman label. Even the work of a father was considered a craft of sorts that required the same care and attention to detail as that of the carpenter. Indeed, the ancient Greeks believed that the values and ethos of craftsmanship were things all should seek to live by. In so doing, a man could achieve arete, or excellence, and thus experience eudaimonia (human flourishing), or a flourishing life … Below we take a look at how these overarching principles of the traditional craftsman can apply to all areas of your life, no matter your profession.

Brett McKay, the publisher of the AoM blog, lists nine principles of the craftsman:

  1. Do things well for the sake of doing them well
  2. Plan but not too much
  3. Measure twice, cut once
  4. Work with what you got
  5. Cultivate patience
  6. Let go of your ego
  7. Develop your practical wisdom
  8. Mastery brings meaning
  9. Find your workshop

Do Things Well for the Sake of Doing Them Well

This principle states what should be the primary motivation for our work. We are to do our work well not so we will be praised, not so we will be rewarded, and not so we will feel good about ourselves. While not bad in and of themselves, these motivations are subordinate to the more noble motivation of doing things well because doing so is intrinsically worthwhile, it is the right thing to do. “Fundamental to the code of craftsmanship,” writes Brett, “is the desire to do something well for its own sake.”

This is a noble motivation but even this is subordinate to the Christian’s ultimate motivations. There are three scripture verses that set forth the motives for our work:

So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. 1 Cor. 10:31

And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Col. 3:17

Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward. You are serving the Lord Christ. Col. 3:23–24

The quality of our work is to reflect well on God. It is also to be done as though we were doing it for Christ.

For example, in preparing a presentation, the motivation is not to do well so that our audience will be impressed with us; our motivation is to impress them with God. And, we should devote the same energy and attention to detail in preparing and delivering our presentation as we would if we knew Jesus was going to in the audience—because he will be.

Likewise, how we conduct a meeting, how we teach a class, how we make decisions, how we train staff, and how we craft an email are all to be done with such craftsmanship that God is honored and Christ would be pleased if he were on the receiving end of our work. Imagine Jesus sitting in the audience, our class, our meeting, or at his computer reading our email. Those images should shape the motives and quality of our work.

There are two examples that will serve to illustrate what craftsmanship in our work looks like—one from “old world” craftsmanship and one from the biography of Steve Jobs, founder of Apple:

Furniture Making

“Make every product better than it’s ever been done before. Make the parts you cannot see as well as the parts you can see. Use only the best materials, even for the most everyday items. Give the same attention to the smallest detail as you do to the largest. Design every item you make to last forever.” – Shaker Philosophy of Furniture Making

Computer Making

[Steve Jobs’s father] tried to pass along his love of mechanics and cars. “Steve, this is your workbench now,” he said as he marked off a section of the table in their garage. Jobs remembered being impressed by his father’s focus on craftsmanship. “I thought my dad’s sense of design was pretty good,” he said, “because he knew how to build anything … Fifty years later the fence [his father built] still surrounds the back and side yards of the house in Mountain View. As Jobs showed it off to me, he caressed the stockade panels and recalled a lesson that his father implanted deeply in him. It was important, his father said, to craft the backs of cabinets and fences properly, even though they were hidden. “He loved doing things right. He even cared about the look of the parts you couldn’t see” …

Jobs’s father had once taught him that a drive for perfection meant caring about the craftsmanship even of the parts unseen. Jobs applied that to the layout of the circuit board inside the Apple II. He rejected the initial design because the lines were not straight enough.

Plan (But Not Too Much)

With any project, the craftsman creates twice: first mentally and then physically. Before he sets chisel to stone or hammer to wood, the craftsman has already created his work in his mind. In other words, he plans how to bring out the object from the rough materials and tools before him.

On the other hand, while the craftsman understands the importance of planning, he isn’t over-fastidious about it. Instead of detailed blueprints, the master craftsman prefers the rough sketch because he knows that unforeseen problems (or opportunities) can arise once he’s actually working.

For any leader planning is critical. Properly crafted plans steer our schools in the right direction and ensure that we have allocated our physical, financial, and human resources for maximum impact. But for some, procrastination masquerades as planning. Plan well but don’t spend so much time planning that little time or energy is available for execution. It is much easier to turn an aircraft carrier when it is moving than when it is dead in the water. Plan but get moving.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

This is one of the simplest and most memorable maxims of craftsmen, although it’s not always easy to follow through with in your everyday life. Suffice it to say that while you should leave room in your plans for improvisation, when it comes to making decisions that you can’t take back, make sure you’ve studied and pondered the choice thoroughly before you make your “cut.”

During my career as a school leader I have had the privilege of starting several significant initiatives. Two stand out in my mind: starting a new Christian school from scratch and launching 1:1 computing programs in two schools, one in the late 1990s and one this year. I have followed the BS/BS model: “Build Slow, Build Solid.” It is far better to spend the time, attention, and energy preparing properly than to rush headlong into a project and then be faced with cleaning up the resulting mess.

The adage to “measure twice, cut once,” was taught to me by my father when I helped him build houses. He taught me that, “lumber is expensive. Before turning on the circular saw measure again—make sure of your measurements then, and only then, cut.”

There are a lot of applications to this principle but hiring is at the top of the list. It is far better to be thorough and careful in finding the right person for a position the first time than to be faced with cleaning up after a bad hire and to do it over and over for the same position. Take your time, be thorough, hire right. Measure twice, cut once.

Work With What You Got

The master craftsman understands that most times he’ll never have the ideal materials, tools, or environment to work with. Unforeseen knots are discovered in wood and hidden imperfections in stone are revealed. Instead of becoming frustrated by such curveballs, the master craftsman adjusts his plans and works these imperfections into his creation so that you’d never know they were there … Instead of seeing these constraints and contingencies as obstacles, see them as creative opportunities and incorporate them into your life as unique and interesting pieces of texture. Remember, some of history’s greatest men turned what could have been a weakness into a strength.

Do not use your lack of gifts or resources as an excuse for not being a craftsman. No one has everything he or she needs or desires. Personal abilities and school resources are always limited.

Instead of focusing on what you do not have, make the most of what you do have. This is consistent with Jesus’s parable of the talents—each steward was given a different amount. He was not accountable for how much he was given, he was accountable for what did or did not do with what he was given. This should be our attitude as leaders—what has God provided? Let’s make the most of it by being creative, by focusing on possibilities rather than on limitations.

Cultivate Patience

A good craftsman has the patience to stay with frustrating work, even when it takes longer than he originally thought. He avoids frustration by living by the following maxim: when something takes longer than you expect, stop fighting it and embrace it

Us moderns have a perverse expectation that things should happen NOW. We want emails answered immediately and we even expect success to come right away … The reality is that things almost always take longer than expected, especially those things that are good and noble. So instead of fighting it, embrace it as the calm craftsman does. Life will become instantly more enjoyable and less stressful once you cultivate this virtue of patience.

Patience is a virtue often mentioned in the scriptures. Consider these examples:

Be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. Rom. 12:12

And we urge you, brothers, admonish the idle, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with them all. 1 Thess. 5:14

Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. James 5:7–8

We put no obstacle in anyone’s way, so that no fault may be found with our ministry, but as servants of God we commend ourselves in every way: by great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, the Holy Spirit, genuine love. 2 Cor. 6:3–6

You, however, have followed my teaching, my conduct, my aim in life, my faith, my patience, my love, my steadfastness. 2 Tim. 3:10

I recently learned the value of patience. After nearly three years of planning I was ready to launch our 1:1 computing initiative called Learning Unleashed. My plan was to implement the program last January in grades 7–8 and this fall in grades 9–12. My board suggested another plan—use January through June to conduct a small pilot program in the seventh grade before deploying the entire program in the Junior High.

After three years of hard work and having successfully launched a similar program several years prior, I was convinced we were ready. The delay was not necessary. It was time to move forward.

Although frustrated, I decided that the biblical thing to do was to embrace the delay, graciously submit to the board’s advice, and to publicly support the board’s recommendation.

While we would have been successful with the earlier and larger rollout of the program, the pilot revealed a number of unanticipated issues that would have made the launch more difficult and frustrating than anticipated. The delay gave us the opportunity to correct these problems and to provide more training before we deployed more broadly. By being patient and embracing the delay, we ended up with a smoother and more effectively deployed program.

Let Go of Your Ego

This principle is so important and so well stated in the original article that I am going to quote it at length.

The craftsman willingly opens himself up to teaching, criticism, and judgment from his peers and clients because that’s the only way he can improve. He doesn’t take criticism personally because the craftsman is more concerned about doing good work than feeling good about his work. A true craftsman understands that nobody cares how he feels about his work. In the end he knows that the only question that matters is: “Does it work?”

Modern culture has indoctrinated us that it’s more important to feel good about our work than to actually do good work. Self-help and career books tell us that we should find work that feels “authentic.” School children are taught that the only thing that counts is their effort, not if their work is actually good or correct. Crawford calls this emphasis on feelings as opposed to results a consumer ethic as opposed to a craftsmanship ethic.

The problem with the consumer ethic is that it creates individuals with self-inflated and fragile egos who are unable to withstand the sometimes harsh criticisms and judgments that invariably come in life and in work. Clients and bosses don’t care if you felt authentic” when writing a memo or if you tried really hard on a project. All they care about are the results. In life, it often takes mistakes in order to get better. You can’t get better if no one ever points out your failings.

If you wish to become the best man you can be, you must rid yourself of the consumer ethic of feelings and replace it with the craftsmanship ethic of results. Does your creation work? Does it look good? Does it add something to the world? If not, seek feedback and use that criticism to improve your work.

I am going to be transparent. I don’t like to have my work critiqued. For whatever reason I have a high need to be and to feel competent. Anything that threatens my sense of competence produces anxiety and stress. Usually, the main threat to my sense of competence is criticism or “second guessing” of my decisions.

This attitude of resisting criticism, of allowing ego to blind us to our shortcomings, is wrong for both biblical and practical reasons.

Biblically, it is clear that pride is the fundamental underlying sin of human nature. Pride was the fountainhead of Satan’s rebellion resulting in his rejection from heaven. Pride was the cause of Adam’s and Eve’s sin.

All of the subsequent suffering, turmoil, and death in our world has its origin in pride. Pride is deadly. Pride kills careers. Pride kills marriages. Pride kills testimonies and effectiveness. Pride leads eventually to physical and spiritual death. And, pride stops us from learning and growing.

The antidote to pride is humility, exemplified by Christ (Phil. 2:3ff). The Bible tells us to be humble, to listen to the advice and counsel of others:

Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall. It is better to be of a lowly spirit with the poor than to divide the spoil with the proud. Prov. 16:18–19

There are six things that the Lord hates, seven that are an abomination to him: haughty eyes … Prov. 6:16–19

Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” Submit yourselves therefore to God … Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you. James 4:6–10

Practically, it is important to embrace the truth that there is “wisdom in many counselors.” (Prov. 24:5–6) One of the roles of a good counselor and friend is to point out our shortcomings. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; profuse are the kisses of an enemy.” (Prov. 27:6) We need honest counselors and friends to show us our blind spots, faulty thinking, character flaws and weaknesses.

We need others to point out our shortcomings—there is no other way to improve. Failure to embrace the critiques and criticisms of others is to embrace mediocrity and pride—both of which are dishonoring to Christ and detrimental to us and our schools.

Develop Your Practical Wisdom

Through years of experience, the craftsman develops what Robert Greene calls a “masterly intuition.” He can sense problems and solutions by merely looking at an object or listening to it operate. I liken it to how a man will often know if there is something wrong with his car just by feeling the way it drives or hearing something subtle that wasn’t previously there …

Aristotle called this kind of intuition phronesis, or practical wisdom. The ancient philosopher believed that the phronesis was a virtue that all men should develop, not just carpenters or masons. Practical wisdom is what allows us to make good judgments when we face decisions when there’s no clear right or wrong answer. It gives us the ability ”to do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason.” Aristotle argued that practical wisdom for everyday life develops the same way craftsmen develop theirs — through experience and trial and error.

School leaders make hundreds, if not thousands, of decisions every year. In making some of these decisions we will not have all of the facts. In many instances there will be no clear right or wrong answer. We are often faced with a Solomon like decision in which we must “cut the baby in half.”

To make wise decisions when you do not have all of the facts or when faced with ambiguity, follow these steps:

  • Pray earnestly for wisdom, which God has promised to provide.

  • Study the scriptures for principles to apply. God does not give wisdom in isolation, he generally provides much of it through his word.

  • Seek the counsel of godly, biblically literate, and experienced Christians.

  • Take time to gather as much information as possible and to ponder the applicable biblical principles and counsel received. Then make your decision.

  • Assess the impact of your decision and amend if possible and appropriate. At the very least if your decision proves to be less than perfect-learn from it just as the craftsman learns from his mistakes.

Mastery Brings Meaning

Mastery is the goal of the true craftsman. As an apprentice, the would-be craftsman devotes years of his life humbly submitting to quiet observation. He watches his master work and gives an attentive ear to his instructions. After years of passive observation, an apprentice begins experimenting his craft to determine his skill. Through years of trial and error, he slowly hones his skill to a sharp edge. Even when a craftsman has obtained the level of master, he continues to dedicate his life to constant improvement. He understands that by increasing his ability, he increases his value. By mastering his trade, the craftsman is better able to live by the craftsmanship ethic, which in turn allows him to feel deeper personal satisfaction, develop confidence, contribute to his community, and thus discover greater and greater meaning and fulfillment in his work.

In Drive, Daniel Pink highlights research that has shown that, contrary to popular belief, it’s not the type of work that we do that leads to personal fulfillment. Rather it’s mastery of our work (along with autonomy and purpose) that brings us satisfaction. If you feel like you’re lacking meaning in your work or in your life, follow the example of the craftsman by seeking mastery. If you’re a computer programmer, make it a goal to constantly improve your programming chops; if you’re a manager, read the latest management research and apply it in your daily work. By seeking mastery, you’ll increase your self-efficacy and your ability to leave a mark on the world.

Each of us have been given “natural” and spiritual gifts for use in serving others and glorifying the God whose image we bear. We have a two-fold responsibility—to use these gifts and to hone and cultivate them so that we become masters of our “trade.”

Paul instructs his young apprentice Timothy to improve his teaching gifts: “Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. (1 Tim. 4:13–15) In his second letter to his apprentice in the faith, Paul writes, “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth.” (2 Tim. 2:15)

The day we think we have arrived is the day we stop growing and our effectiveness begins to diminish. Keep learning. Keep growing. Keep striving. Keep improving. Become a master of your gifts so that you can serve others well and mentor those who will follow you.

Find Your Workshop

We often imagine the archetypal craftsman toiling alone in his shop, but historically, the vocation of a craftsman was and still is very social. When a master craftsman wanted to commune with his fellow masters, he’d head to the nearest guildhall where new insights were shared and policies governing the craft debated. And now, as then, a craftsman’s workshop is the real hub of his sociality. Here he mentors and teaches an apprentice or journeyman, works alongside his peers, and interacts with his clients.

The workshop and guildhall give the craftsman a sense of community, identity, and belonging. Crawford says this of the community that craftsmanship fosters:

“So my work situates me in a particular community. The narrow mechanical things I concern myself with are inscribed within a larger circle of meaning; they are in the service of an activity that we recognize as part of a life well lived.

Mimic the craftsman by finding your metaphorical workshop. Be intentional about forming life-long brotherhoods. Find your platoon of men that will hold you accountable to a code of honor that demands excellence and honesty in all you do.

Where is your workshop? Who are the master craftsmen who mentor you and hold you accountable for excellence in your work and nobility in your character?

Where is your sphere of social interaction and influence? If you are a teacher it is your classroom. If you are a coach it is the locker room, the field, the gym. If you are a school leader it is your office, the meeting room, the faculty lounge, the hallway, the auditorium…It is everywhere you work and interact with others. This is where you ply your trade.

What are our tools? They are God’s word, good research, a good book, a hallway conversation, a presentation, an email. Perhaps an article or book or a football.

We have many tools at our disposal. Our calling is be a master at using them to craft lives. Craftsmen, traditionally understood, work with wood, metal, stone, clay, etc. Our material is nothing less than eternal souls. C.S. Lewis wrote:

Every human being is in the process of becoming a noble being, noble beyond imagination; or else, alas, a vile being beyond redemption…The dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet if at all only in a nightmare. There are no ordinary people. It is immortals that we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit. Immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.”

You and I are craftsmen. God has called us to work on eternal souls. To do this well requires the grace of God and the biblically informed ethos of the craftsman. By adopting and living the traditional values of the craftsman we will be a blessing to others, glorify God, advance His kingdom and as Brett notes, “find more personal fulfillment and meaning, enrich our family and community, and hammer, mold, and sculpt an indelible legacy as a [leader].


References:

Measure Twice, Cut Once: Applying the Ethos of the Craftsman to Our Everyday Lives by Brett, artofmanliness.com, July 3rd 2013

[Ref2]: Isaacson, Walter (2011–10–24). Steve Jobs (pp. 6, 74). Simon & Schuster. Kindle Edition.

[Ref3]: C. S. Lewis in his essay, “The Weight of Glory.”

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