I was the child who struggled to fit into the “norms” of society. My mother called me stubborn and contrary because I was not who she wanted me to be. I was not being rebellious at the time (that came later); I was just different. She pictured a well-dressed, prim and proper little girl; I was barefoot and climbing trees.
If someone were to ask me about characteristics of librarians, one thought that comes to mind is that librarians are “helpers!” One only has to observe the ACL discussion list to notice how willing librarians are to assist one another. This is not true of all occupations. Librarians, however, seem to truly enjoy helping and serving. This is a commendable trait. Our desire to serve, however, may lead to overtime, long “to do” lists, and taking on additional responsibilities. We can become frustrated, overworked, and anxious about getting everything done. Listen to the words of Jesus in Luke 10: 41-42 when Martha asked him to tell Mary to assist her in preparing the meal for her guests:
God reminds us of the basics sometimes through the most surprising people. I expect Matthew 6 is a well- known passage to those of us who grew up attending church, but how often in the midst of busy or worrying times do we forget entirely about it? Or we think, “Yes, we really shouldn’t worry; we know God is in control, but…”
As Christians, we frequently reflect on those who have impacted our faith and are part of our “great cloud of witnesses,” but we may not always reflect on those who have played a role in our professional journey. There may be the librarian who encouraged a love for reading or assisted in a difficult research project and thus sparked an interest in pursuing librarianship as a career. Perhaps a professor encouraged you to develop skills that are now second nature, or a conference speaker helped to plant an idea that has now bloomed into a useful library service. A colleague might have encouraged you to take the next step in your professional journey. Many ACL members would include fellow members, past and present, who have served as official or unofficial mentors as part of their “great cloud of witnesses.”
I changed jobs last year, moving from a Christian college to a community college after working in Christian higher education for over twenty years. One of the things that scared me most was the thought of having to keep my mouth shut regarding spiritual matters. I thought that I would not have the opportunity to share the gospel with anyone, or that I could not mention the name of Jesus to others. I was wrong. As I get to know the students, staff, faculty, and administration, I have been pleasantly surprised at the number of Christians I encounter on a daily basis.
“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.” (Philippians 4:6-7 ESV)
“Will you pray for me?” How often do we hear this question and pause to lift an individual or situation to the Lord? Sometimes the circumstances are dire, other times it is just the mundane crush of busy lives that drives us to ask each other for prayer.
I have been puzzling over this concept of peace that God gives us in the midst of the storms of life. We ask for prayer. We pray for ourselves. We pray for others. We feel burdened to pray. And then we hear how God has answered. A lonely, fatherless young adult is placed within a family. A woman in cardiac arrest makes it across mountain passes to the hospital, where the surgeon meets her at the door. A discouraged heart is encouraged, though the gray of depression resides. The grieving soul feels the presence of peace and the prayers of the saints. We see God sustain us through our suffering, and He draws us ever closer to Him. In our shared need, He also draws us closer to one another.
How marvelous to think that our Father has knit us together and has equipped us to share in each other’s sufferings!
Over a hurried lunch today I ran into a colleague who asked me to pray. Our conversation was fleeting, unexpected, providential. It quickly turned to the working of the Holy Spirit, the prayers of the Body of Christ, and unexplainable peace. It is a mystery how God brings peace in tumult, and I rejoice at His quiet work that is paradoxical to the rage of the storms in our world.
He brings peace, stills the anxious heart, and gives us joy. As I think about the pressures we face in librarianship, it seems of great importance to remember to pray, to believe, and to be assured that Christ Jesus will secure our hearts and minds.
God may not answer in the way we hope. He may not answer in the time we allot, but He will most assuredly give us peace.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid (John 14:26-27 esv).
Andrea is a Reference Librarian at George Fox University in Portland, OR. She has been a member of ACL for 9 years.
Materialism teaches that matter/energy alone is eternal, and everything that has ever existed is merely some conglomeration of matter or another. A man once wrote, “Meaningless! Meaningless! … Utterly meaningless! Everything is meaningless . . . I have seen all the things that are done under the sun; all of them are meaningless…Again I saw something meaningless under the sun… Everything to come is meaningless!” (Ecclesiastes). There is an unmistakable desperation in his cries. This man, with virtually limitless wealth and labor at his disposal, has searched interminably for meaning in the mere material universe, and he’s come up empty, time and time again. He just can’t make matter matter.
“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.” (Luke 2:52 niv)
Wisdom that comes to us from others is one of God’s blessings—an example of the importance of community, of the church, of the family of man. Recently I read somewhere that “the hours often go slowly, but the years fly by.” That struck me as a wise saying.
Colleen, my wife, has often been a source of recommended readings for me; she should have been a librarian! This year she shared with me an amazing book—Anonymous: Jesus’ Hidden Years and Yours, by Alicia Britt Chole. I highly recommend it. The basic premise is that we know little about the first thirty years (90%) of Jesus’ life. The Bible focuses on Jesus’ three years of public ministry; but His first thirty years were foundational. That quiet season of anonymity prepared Him for true greatness and made Him unshakable when His time came. Chole writes that when our potential is unseen and our abilities are unappreciated, when we are living in the gap between our dreams and life’s realities, we are in what she calls an “anonymous season of the soul.” She centers the book around Matthew’s account of Jesus’ forty days in the Judean wilderness and explains how she sees Jesus’ life up to that point preparing Him for His encounter with Satan.
One of many sentences that really grabbed my attention opens Chapter 18. “Time is not really spent. Instead, it is invested in a future we cannot see.” Reflecting on that thought and the whole book has helped me deal with “anonymous seasons” in my life, like the one right here and now. Colleen and I have a son who has numerous “disabilities,” or what one of Colleen’s special education professors called “differing abilities.” Ben is forty-two years old. He has not been able to complete schooling beyond high school nor hold a job. Ben lives in an apartment on our property, takes his meals with us, and is with us many of his waking hours. It is hard for him and us. We all wish Ben could have things in his life about which to feel good. He is angry at his situation and us much of the time. Colleen and I struggle to meet his needs and find opportunities for him. We rarely get off our place as a couple. That’s hard.
Anonymous said to me that perhaps Colleen, Ben, and I are in a season of preparation for things ahead. It rejuvenated my hope that God’s answer to our and friends’ and family members’ years of prayers for help will move from “not yet—wait—trust” to “yes.” Just after I finished the book this fall, we got word that Ben’s place on the South Carolina Department of Disabilities and Special Needs waiting list for services had progressed from number 5381 in April 2014 to Number One. We are close to direct services for Ben and services that will meet some of our needs for respite care. Time invested praying, working and waiting has brought us closer to the future that we could not see. Not all is clear, nor will it all go smoothly, but hope lives on!
Steven L. Preston
Steven is a retired Library Director from Milligan College in Johnson City, Tennessee and former ACL president. He has been a member of ACL since 1986.
This year the faculty of Grace University has been reading the book Marching off the Map: Inspire Students to Navigate a Brand New World, by Tim Elmore. The basic premise of the book is that faculty can’t effectively connect to the new students coming to us today using the same methods that were successful in the past. Mr. Elmore is suggesting that one must “think outside the box” in order to reach the technology savvy youth entering our campus doors. The book goes on to suggest new methods to use to effectively reach the minds of the next generation.
“The Love of God is Greater Far. . .” The sound of my students singing this song on the last day of the seminar still rings in my mind and heart. I was in Bujumbura, Burundi for three weeks this past summer to teach a library research seminar at Hope Africa University. The words of that song so encapsulated the blessing of those days.