Brother Lawrence – The Kitchen Worker who Practiced Immanuel Labor

As I am now putting the finishing touches of the third draft of my manuscript on the theology of work, I was impressed to go back and page through one of my key references – Brother Lawrence’s powerful classic, The Practice of the Presence of God.

In this short post, I want to consolidate the ten quotes I used from this book.  They are foundational to what I believe about God’s presence at work.

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In chapter 5, where I define the term Immanuel labor, I introduce this man of God:

I absolutely must mention Brother Lawrence, and the classic book of conversations and letters written about him and by him in 1691, The Practice of the Presence of God.

He is described as having “a heart that had learned the most essential ingredient of the Christian life: how to remain in the presence of God daily.”  In one recorded conversation, he had stated quite simply “All we have to do is to recognize God as being intimately present within us.  Then we may speak directly to Him every time we need to ask for help, to know His will in moments of uncertainty, and to do whatever He wants us to do in a way that pleases Him.”

After he had walked with God for over forty years, it was said that he “had become so accustomed to God’s divine presence that he relies on it for help on all sorts of occasions.  His soul has been filled with a constant inner joy that is sometimes so overwhelming.”  A friend stated, “by dwelling in the presence of God he has established such a sweet communion with the Lord that His spirit abides, without much effort, in the restful peace of God.  In this rest, he is filled with a faith that equips him to handle anything that comes to him.”  What a guy!

Later in this same chapter, I discuss the idea of losing and regaining our sense of God’s presence.  Contemplate this beautiful statement written by his friend:

It was said of Brother Lawrence, “When he sinned, he confessed it to God with these words: ‘I can do nothing better without You.  Please keep me from falling and correct the mistakes I make.’  After that he did not feel guilty about the sin.”

At the end of this chapter, I  share one more quote:

Let me close with an astute observation from a friend: “The good brother found God everywhere, as much while he was repairing shoes as while he was praying with the community.  He was in no hurry to go on retreats, because he found the same God to love and adore in his ordinary work as in the depth of the desert.”  Wow!

In chapter 11, where I teach some basic biblical principles on how we should work, I return to Brother Lawrence to highlight several more quotes from his book:

His sense of God’s presence affected his work.  His attitude was, “Never tire of doing even the smallest things for Him, because He isn’t impressed so much with the dimensions of our work as with the love in which it is done.”

He was assigned to work in the kitchen.  Though he did not like it at first, “he developed quite a facility for doing it over the fifteen years he was there.  He attributed this to his doing everything for the love of God, asking as often as possible for grace to do his work.”  His friend wrote, “Although he was assigned the humblest duties there, he never complained.  The grace of Jesus Christ sustained him in everything that was unpleasant or tiresome.”  Brother Lawrence exemplified Paul’s command: “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men . . . It is the Lord Christ you are serving” (Col. 3:23-24).

This quote clearly shows my idea of Immanuel labor in this man of faith:

“At the beginning of my duties I would say to the Lord with confidence, ‘My God, since You are with me, and since, by Your will, I must occupy myself with external things, please grant me the grace to remain with You, in Your presence.  Work with me, so that my work might be the very best.  Receive as an offering of love both my work and all my affections.’ . . . And at the end of my work, I used to examine it carefully.  If I found good in it, I thanked God.  If I noticed faults, I asked His forgiveness without being discouraged, and then went on with my work, still dwelling in Him.”

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I trust that these words that were written over three hundred years ago will inspire you as much as they have me.  My desire is that many Christians will learn to practice the presence of God at work, and experience the same joy that Brother Lawrence had.  I strongly encourage you to read this book if you have not done so.

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Working on Editing my Manuscript for Publication

It has been more than a couple of months since I posted an article about my book writing journey.  A lot has happened since.  I want to bring everyone up to speed.

From the end of July to the end of August, I was frantically trying to make my self-imposed deadline of being finished with the first draft of my manuscript by Labor Day (pun intended).

I read through every post on my Immanuel Labor Facebook page to copy a few of my original reflections that I had not captured. I finished combing through the transcript of my two-hour seminar presentation that my youngest son typed up and found some additional content.  I did a little bit of digging into a few commentaries to add to the discussion of a few key Scriptures.  I paged through the last half-dozen books out of the thirty I had read, found appropriate quotes I wanted to use, and then inserted them throughout.  I scanned my unpublished autobiographical story I wrote for my wife and family, The Spark is Still There, and selected a few relevant stories about job searches to use.

After all that, there were a couple of important things I needed to tackle.  The first was inserting footnotes wherever I had used a quote.  I ended up with 300 of those.  I also had to track down page numbers for the over 300 scripture references I used for my index at the end of the book.  What remained was to re-read the whole thing and make some semi-final edits.

Since I was close to finishing up, I had started to do a little research on publishers.  I had done a bit several months’ back, but I did not get very far.  I had been so focused on writing, I had not spent much time thinking about the next step.  On one of my lunch hours I began to learn about the process of contacting a literary agent, since most publishers would not take unsolicited manuscripts.  I had begun to compile a list of several agents that looked promising.

At some point, I also began to look into self-publishing.  In the course of my on-line research, West Bow Press came up as a valid option.  I was familiar with this publisher as one of the books I read this past year was published by them.  I clicked on a link to get more information.

During the last week of August, I had initial email contact with someone from West Bow.  After I took a few days to check out their packages, talk with a representative, discuss it with my wife, pray, and think about it, I decided to go with them on the 31st.  Thus, my real concerns about it taking several months to find an agent and a publisher to try to get the book on the street were ended.

I had every intention of taking the next four days, Labor Day weekend, to finish writing and editing my first draft.  However, plans sometimes change.

We got a call from our daughter at about 5:15 Friday morning.  She had gone into labor two weeks early.  (On Labor Day weekend!  A punmeister’s dream!  I had been making jokes about mothers giving birth on Labor Day for years.  I will be talking about this for quite some time.)

So, we headed north to meet our newest grandchild, and more importantly, take care of his big brother for a couple of days while mom, dad, and the new one were in the hospital.  Needless to say, I did not get a whole lot of writing done over the weekend, just a little bit here and there.

We got home late Tuesday night, and I finished up my manuscript on Wednesday. (I needed the extra day off which was already approved.)  My check-in coordinator at West Bow Press contacted me the same day.  She sent me a welcome packet and a several page document I had to fill out.  I had to let them know what size the book should be (6” x 9”) and provide some detailed information such as “about the author”.  I sent it back with the first draft of my manuscript plus two attached illustrations on the 9th of September.

Two business days later, I got an email from her stating that my content evaluation had begun.  It was supposed to take three to four weeks, but it was completed in only one week and two days.  I had to make some minor modifications to the manuscript where I used interior illustrations.  I also had to make a few adjustments to the song lyrics I quoted, keeping them to fewer than eight lines.

The next step was the editorial assessment. This phase also moved along more quickly than expected.  It should have taken three to four weeks, but it took only one.  The book will need some professional editorial work, which they do provide at an additional cost.  Fortunately, it was rated at the lowest level of need (and cheapest cost), so I feel pretty good about the content and quality of writing.

What is left for me to do?  I am in the process of adding questions for small group discussion or individual reflection at the end of each chapter.  I only have two more chapters to go.  Unfortunately, this has thrown off my page count, so I will have to go back and correct all the page numbers in my scripture index.  I also have to put my footnotes into the proper Chicago Manual of Style format.

It occurred to me last week that this book has the potential to impact more people than the hundreds of people I have taught, coached, and mentored in five years of vocational youth ministry in Colorado and Oregon and thirty years of teaching, encouraging, and small group facilitating ministries in various chapels and churches around the world.

I solicit your prayers that I finish well and that this book gets published in His time.