As part of our community's celebration of Black History Month, which took place in the United States last month, I was managing a series of concerts by the Paris-based gospel singer Tori (a.k.a. Victoria Robinson). I loved it, because the music was wonderfully upbeat, happy, and profoundly reverent.
It reminded me of my childhood, when as a boy I would sit outside the Holiness Church around the corner from where I lived and listen to the joyous sounds from the choirs and soloists inside.
Tori's repertoire includes both recent and traditional pieces, and many were familiar. There was a new one, though, and it made a deep impression on me. Its refrain was, "Only what you do for Christ will last."
I'm in the news business, and in today's media-saturated society, yesterday's news is far worse than yesterday's bread. It's nearly useless. It's used to wrap fish or put under the dog's water dish. So I am accustomed to working hard and having fun doing it, but my product is often ephemeral. It doesn't last. As I thought about the message, I began to wonder: If what I'm doing doesn't last, is it not being done for Christ?
Then there's the question of attitude. What if I were producing something lasting - a bridge, maybe, or a poem that would be read for a thousand years - but my attitude was one of burden, irritability, or boredom? That wouldn't be working for Christ, either.
I'm accustomed to turning not only to the Bible for answers to the problems in my daily life but also to "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," the major work by Mary Baker Eddy, who also started this newspaper. In that book, I found this passage: "The habitual struggle to be always good is unceasing prayer. Its motives are made manifest in the blessings they bring, - blessings which, even if not acknowledged in audible words, attest our worthiness to be partakers of Love" (pg. 4).
Three words stood out to me here: prayer, motives, and blessings. My job isn't just producing a news story that will be forgotten tomorrow. It's all about accuracy and integrity. It's about efficiency and helping others know about good going on. It's about punctuality and order. And it's about having fun doing it - expressing joy. So what I'm really doing isn't producing that story so much as it is making these good, Godlike qualities part of my life.
A few years ago I had a special assignment. A very senior official was coming to town, and I was named to be the person to make sure that the media got the story.
The official wanted to do a planeside press conference at the tarmac but refused to walk more than 40 feet from the exit ramp to the podium. He specified how far the press should be from the podium. And he didn't want to wait more than four minutes after landing to have all our setup done. But he couldn't tell us when his chartered plane would arrive, and the airport couldn't tell us where they would put the plane. So we didn't know where or when to do the setup. It was a nightmare, and people all around me were stressing out.
This time I turned to the Bible and found, "Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee..." (Luke 4:14).
I had always thought of that verse as just a way for the narrator to get Jesus from one place to another, but then I realized there was another meaning. He returned "in the power of the Spirit."
Well, I thought, if I identify myself as God's child, I have to be moving in the power of the Spirit, too. It means I can't make a mistake, because I have the power of Spirit backing me up. I felt a great joy and enthusiasm for the work. I looked up and saw the official's plane coming in. Immediately I knew where to have the podium placed and where to put the journalists. We got it done in three minutes, and the official walked 38 steps to his platform.
It really was a jubilant experience, and I had done it by going right back to God as the source of my intelligence. I suppose one could say I was doing it all for Christ, joyously. And the lessons I learned have lasted.