Thursday, August 06, 2009

A Dangling Carrot

I'm away from the office this week, spending time with my mother in Colorado. I labeled the time away "Sabbath rest." When I left the office on Sunday, I was exhausted. I have been working too many weeks without real Sabbath, and too many days where breakfast, lunch and dinner are all consumed at the church. I left with weariness that had invaded my body, mind and spirit. I left, needing desperately to sleep long nights, to put my feet up in my mother's recliner, to do much of nothing.

But, before I could start to rest, I had an assignment to finish. The invitation to write liturgies for a new worship book arrived in my inbox months ago. It came from an editor I have written for before - turning in several different sermons for $100 a sermon. I stopped writing the sermons because I found that I, myself, could not really preach them. It is hard to preach something that is not really personal, that is not written with a particular community in mind.

But, when he emailed with an invitation to participate in a book, I was immediately drawn to the invitation. It was a lot more money and more responsibility. When I looked at the list of people being invited to write, I was impressed. At least one of the names was a very well respected author, Wesleyan scholar, and seminary professor. This person has written so many books, so many articles, and his name would be next to mine (rather, my name next to his). "Oh, think of the possibilities!" I thought to myself.

The assignment came in blocks. We could accept as many blocks as we wanted to accept. One block consisted of 6 calls to worship, 6 invocations, 6 offertory prayers, 6 prayers of confession and words of assurance, 4 litanies, 6 pastoral prayers and 6 benedictions. It seemed rather straightforward. I could do this. I accepted 4 blocks.

Weeks passed without my touching the assignment. Then months started to pass. I started it here and there, I wrote a few pieces every now and again, but I never made much progress. I realized, again, that I have a hard enough time getting my job done in less than 55 hours each week, let alone adding other responsibilities.

But the carrot was still dangling. The money and the success were intriguing.

The assignment was due on August 1. I begged for a few days of extension and was granted them. I had to turn them in by yesterday morning.

And so, my vacation started with 12 hours at my mother's table. For 12 hours on Tuesday, I wrote and wrote and wrote and wrote. I prayed and prayed and prayed and prayed. I got the assignment done, and I was exhausted.

We had a speaker last week at Mount Vernon Place who shared with us a presentation on "John Wesley and Money." Wesley taught that we should earn all we can, save all we can and share all we can. He was, however, very clear about how we should earn. We should not earn any money that causes us to hurt our family or our health.

I was completely seduced by this invitation. I saw the money involved and the impressive list of authors whose name I could stand alongside of. I was impressed, and I said, "yes." But, I am not sure that any of this really benefits me. Sure, the money will pay for our airfare to Italy and at least one night of lodging. But, I had to spend an entire day of vacation earning it. I had to ignore my family for one day in order to get the assignment done. Is this really worth it?

How many things do we do because a carrot is dangling? How seductive are the carrots in your life? How many pockets of change do we go chasing after at the expense of our own health and family? Is our desire to earn money hurting our health and impacting our family?

What are the carrots in your life?

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