Avodah and Roaring Lambs

October 15, 2010 | 21 comments

I steer into the campus parking lot, see eight students with notebooks waiting in the grass for me.

I glance at the clock: 3:41 p.m. I was due here a minute ago.

The one student who interrupts me during class lectures, … he lectures me now.

“Why the hold-up?” he scolds, jumps to his feet before the others. He asks his question one more time, then adds: “You’re late.”

He has a book in his hand, raises it over his head like an exclamation point.

I pretend I don’t hear him.

I wave students into cars, instruct them to follow me to City Hall. I’ve been teaching my students how news reporters cover meetings. I figure the best way to learn, is to do. So today, we’re covering a city council meeting.

The student who scolded me takes the passenger seat … in my car.

I pull seatbelt, latch. He slips his book on the armrest between us.

I turn my head, catch his eye. He smiles.

“I promised you,” he says, then wags a finger. “Now, … don’t forget: I need that back by the end of the semester.”

The book is Roaring Lambs by Bob Briner. And Bryan has written his own name in the front cover of the well-worn book, in case his absent-minded professor forgets who loaned it.

***

The student told me about the book two days earlier.

I was at the front of the classroom, praying — because that is the way I start class. (I teach journalism at a Christian college.) I pray for words, for journalists, for newsmakers. That day, I also prayed this:

“Father, we don’t always do work that looks sacred. We live in a secular world, where we cover council meetings, fires, tornadoes. But we are called to be a holy people. And Lord, even if the work doesn’t have a Jesus Label slapped on it, remind us that it is, indeed, holy. And remind us that we do our work for Your glory, not our own.”

I barely whisper the amen, when Bryan is speaking, finger punching the air.

“Professor,” he says. “I have a book you need to read.”

***

On the way to the Council meeting, he sets the book between us.

“Thank you, Bryan. I’ll be sure to return it.”

Good, he says. He tells me he’s convinced we can do our work in the world, even if it doesn’t have the Jesus Label slapped on it — just like I’d prayed two days earlier.

I nod, steer west toward City Hall.

“Bryan?” I ask. “Have you heard of this word? It’s spelled A-V-O-D-A-H. Avodah. It’s a Hebrew word that means both work and worship. I’m just crazy about that word.”

“Can you imagine it?” My voice is rising now. I’m the one punching the air with my forefinger. “Our work isn’t just work. It’s worship, too. Covering a City Council meeting? That can be worship if we do it well, if we do it for God’s glory!”

He says he’s never heard the word Avodah, but he nods. Because he already knows.

***

Meeting adjourns. I take students home, tuck my own girls in bed, open the Roaring Lambs.

Briner writes about a Christian subculture. He says we often write songs and books and stories for Christians, but sometimes exclude the world. He asks how we can really be salt for the world if we’re not doing some work outside a Christian ghetto. How can we be world-changers if we’re only writing our stories and our songs for people who think and believe like we do?

He asserts that Christians have fled from culture-shaping arenas of art and entertainment … and journalism. Now, to be clear, I love things with the Jesus Label on it. I favor Christian music, read mostly books on Christian living. Even my blog bears His name.

But I can’t get over the question on the front page of the book: “Do you have as many close friends outside the church as within?”

I lean over these pages, hear them roar, and I whisper the word twice more: Avodah. Avodah. I want to live an Avodah life.

I finish the last chapter. Close the book. I’ll take it back to Bryan on Tuesday. And I’ll thank God for the kid in the front row who was bold enough to roar.

Photo: Quote plaque at Laity Lodge in Texas.

RELATED ARTICLES on Avodah:

“Do You Feel Broken and Fragmented?” by Ann Voskamp at The High Calling. She also writes of Avodah here, at Holy Experience.

“Six Days Shalt Thou … Worship?” by Marcus Goodyear at Good Word Editing.

Why Work is Holy” by Dave Williamson at The High Calling.

by | October 15, 2010 | 21 comments

21 Comments

  1. alicia

    Jennifer- what an awesome challenge! It is easy to walk the Christian walk when we walk among peers, but to be light, we need to step out of our comfort zone. Thanks for the nudge. Going to check out that book now…

    Reply
  2. Sandra Heska King

    I so wish I was in your class!

    Reply
  3. Andrea

    love it! reposted over at Fearlessly Feminine (militarygals.blogspot.com) – thanks for yet another great piece!

    Reply
  4. Lyla Lindquist

    Breathing deep here. And when I do, I still pick up smoke. But you remind me of this thing I don't always get my sooty hands around.

    These things we do, they matter.

    Reply
  5. Deidra

    Reminds me of those words we heard about the rainbow connection. Rmember that?

    Reply
  6. Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus

    Yes, Alicia, it is an awesome challenge. The book is actually a 1993 book, and it's assigned in a Dordt communications taught class by another prof. The subtitle: "A Gentle Plan to Radically Change Your World." (I may start assigning it for my students, too.)

    Sandra — I wish you were in my class, too — only I think I'd be looking to YOU for answers on writing. You ROCK!

    Hey Andrea — So good to see you here. You live the Avodah. Keep at it, girl. Your work is worship.

    Lyla — You live it well — in the rejoicing and in the weeping. Your sooty hands are acquainted with the Avodah life.

    Deidra — Yes! I thought of Jeffrey Overstreet often while writing this post, and while reading the Briner book last night. In 2006, Image had a description of Overstreet that fits what we're talking about here:

    "Jeffrey Overstreet is a trespasser. He's constantly moving outside of the borders of what church and culture deem to be ironclad, eternal categories (sacred vs. profane, high culture vs. popular culture)—and he has a knack for bringing people along with him."

    I want to be a "trespasser" like that.

    Reply
  7. jasons

    So glad that ministry doesn't end at the church doors! We can change the world by using the gifts and expressing the purpose for which we were created. What a great God!

    Great post too, Jennifer. Thanks.

    Reply
  8. Lyla Lindquist

    Sorry, can't read this one enough times today…

    🙂

    Reply
  9. Linda

    You never fail to call me to a higher place Jennifer. My life seems so insulated at times. It is so easy to get comfortable with the way things are.

    Reply
  10. S. Etole

    great lesson here … so easy to isolate and insulate ourselves from the "real" world …

    Reply
  11. jaybird7

    Kingdom Workers, we are. Those who are Christ Followers are called to work with the King

    Doing the work of the King, with the King, in places that are not prone to welcome any thing that's associated with the King.

    And all we have to do is follow the King and let him turn our world upside down.

    Which raises an interesting question for me: Why are children the only ones who are encouraged to play 'Follow the Leader'?

    Reply
  12. elaine @ peace for the journey

    avodah… work and worship.

    Reminds me of a prompt I received earlier in the week regarding Christ's call to discipleship–the Great Commission.

    Go, make disciples. In the context of my reading, the author drew my attention to the word "make" and equated it with "live". Thus, "Go, live disciple(ship)."

    I like that.

    Makes everything we do work and worship for the kingdom.

    avodah.

    Blessings and peace, sister, as you continue to flesh out your inner kingdom conferment.

    ~elaine

    Reply
  13. B His Girl

    Yes Jennifer, let's sing outside of the choir loft. You have a wise student who obviously sees Jesus in you. Job well done! B

    Reply
  14. Bina

    Mmmmm…have missed it over here. Thanks for the thought-provoking post that has my mind searching and seeking.

    Reply
  15. DenaDyer

    I love, love, love that book. As someone who feels privileged to have been in several arenas as a (hopefully!) roaring lamb, I miss Bob Briner's voice in our culture…and hope and pray FERVENTLY that I'm raising a couple of roaring lambs.

    Reply
  16. Connie Mace

    amen…avodah…soli Deo gloria…thank you Jennifer for raising our eyes

    Reply
  17. Jennifer

    Oh, I didn't know this word! To worship in work–awesome. Thank you for my education today, dear professor. I so wish I could pray with my students before starting class.

    Reply
  18. Anne Lang Bundy

    Avodah.

    What an exquisitely beautiful word. It is feminine (-ah ending), and I think I will be meditating on that as I meditate on this word in days to come. The Lord has been talking to me about what it is to work for Him lately. The timing of this could not be better.

    Thanks, Jennifer!

    Reply
  19. Anne Lang Bundy

    I've continued thinking about avodah. I re-read this post today, and am struck by the question my eyes passed over (when I was busily caught up with the concept of avodah):

    "Do you have as many close friends outside the church as within?"

    Though I have a library copy of Roaring Lambs waiting for me, I haven't yet read this book, as so many above commenters have. I admittedly don't know the full context of the question, but I have to challenge it, for it seems to undermine a fundamental principle: we Christians are to seek unity with one another and maintain separation from the world.

    We are to no doubt be salt and light. We are certainly expected to "keep company" or "associate" with the world (1 Corinthians 5:9-10), and that should be more than superficial relationships. But the fellowship I have with "close friends" means I allow them into my life. I open myself to receive those things which are a part of them. I cannot simultaneously commune with them closely and maintain separation from what is important to them.

    All these are things to be sought with fellow believers. The very word "holy" means set apart. As difficult as it may be to rightly separate ourselves from the world at the same time we integrate ourselves into worldly associations—as thoroughly as salt penetrates meat and light penetrates darkness—we are to be separate. "Close friendship" should certainly exist outside the church building, but I do not see how it can exist with those outside The Church.

    Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? … Therefore
    “Come out from among them
    And be separate, says the Lord.
    Do not touch what is unclean,
    And I will receive you.”

    (2 Corinthians 6:14,17)

    The worship of my work is for my God, not for the world, though I love as He does. My salt and light must retain their savor and purity.

    Reply
  20. Karen

    Very Nice! Going to use this for Sunday School and Youth Group!!! Thank you!!!

    Reply

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