Grit and singing behind the plow

Part 3 of 4: Come & See Tour Analysis – Forged with grit and discovering the key to inspiring joy-filled business

Grit is the framework upon which anything actually gets done. Grit requires great courage and resolve to start, continue and finish what you put your hand to. It is a true strength of character This is critical in running any small business. From the very beginning, your grit will be tested. Do you have what it takes to see a work through to its completion?

uring the #comeandseetour, we brought back all the data we had collected and studied it, searching for the keys insights for The Master Crafted. In June we started sharing the four key things that now make up our #TenfoldProject which is launching September 1st. We opened with a post about capacity for making all things beautiful. We then later followed it up with a post about the creativity quotient – to spawn even greater commercial opportunities for the future.

In this post, I want to keep on plowing and turning over the soil of what I observed. This time we’ll focus on good ole fashioned grit. But more importantly what causes us to “sing behind the plow” as the old Dutch phrase goes with the grit that the Lord has given us. As always there’s no dichotomy – it’s all Jesus and all business all the time. If this is your first reading of this blog please don’t be alarmed, for I mean you no harm… I must live out this philosophy, and work out His plan as far as it is possible with all people; and, if it is worthwhile, (and I truly believe it is) it will spread.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

every farmer has grit - it's seen every time they put their hand to the plow

Defining what grit is…

I was raised with a certain work ethic growing up that I referred to as “midwestern grit”. As a cornfed hay-baling Ohio boy, I got it honest. It was the reality that it requires great courage and resolve – a true strength of character – to start, continue and finish what you put your hand to. I first learned of this kind of grit via my parents. My mother always had “projects” my sister and I were assigned to do around the house each summer to improve our home’s value through what momma called “sweat equity”. I fully understood the sweat part, but I had no clue what equity meant at the time – glad I’ve come to appreciate it later in life. In my “schooling”, I was called upon to dig and plant flower beds, remove several layers of wallpaper off of our horsehair plaster walls, and scrape and paint every square inch of the outside of our house that I could reach, and if we could can or freeze it you can bet we did. (Don’t worry I still found time to play) While we were busy at home my father was at work often holding down multiple jobs when I was young to ensure that we had a roof over our head and food on our table. I was taught lessons from my extended family and they were no different – the same from my coaches, teachers, and mentors.

So grit was modeled for me consistently from a very young age and from a wide range of teachers, and slowly I too began to believe in its importance in life and put it into practice. I remember back in the early days of Morning Star Fiber, there were four generations working together in the mill even though my grandfather was in his late 80s and my sons weren’t even in their double digits- a whole mill full of grit. During this transition from Morning Star Fiber to The Master Crafted, my grit has been tested. Undoubtedly one’s grit can become dull and needs the trials of life to hone and sharpen it, and for that, we can be thankful.

Niche Textiles full of people with grit…

Since many in this business have an agricultural/rural background, it was no surprise that this same work ethic was seen among the owners and operators of the mills we visited and not just those in the Midwest. We saw it in the New England states, the Pacific Northwest, in the Southwest and here in the deep South – literally, everywhere we went. I’m proud to say that this industry is full of folks putting in truly commendable effort – getting up early, staying up late and striving most weekends to ensure that customers are receiving the value they deserve. During my travels, I felt right at home in this environment and was strongly encouraged by it.

For those considering starting a mill of your own, I would encourage you to consider the level of grit you’ve been trained in – you’ll need every bit of it. Many refer to it as “farmer strong”, and to be honest many farmers make great millers. And given the demand, we could use a hundred or so more! There’s a lot of work to be done when it comes to fiber in the land of the free and the home of the brave.

The Darkside of grit

There is another side of grit (as I’ve seen it played out in my own life) that I want to dedicate the rest of this post to. I want to bring into focus this darker side and also present its sure remedy. Let me first pause and say that what I’m about to present is not in reference to what I saw on our tour, but it is simply a reality to be wrestled with for everyone who has been schooled in this God-given life lesson. Grit is not just the reality of putting our hand to the plow and not looking back, but as we do our plowing we sing for we know the joy of doing good work and its rewards. More importantly, do we know why that good work is there in the first place and how it can be done joyfully? This is where the courage and resolve come in, the test that truly reveals our strength of character.

This book highlights the grit of John C Campbell to finish his work in Appalachia

I’ll begin by sharing a bit about the story of John C. Campbell and his missionary journey that ultimately resulted in the folk school, that’s still in operation today and not too far from where I live, as it speaks to this kind of joy-filled work. It is a story derived out of hard times and trials and forged from the grit of this young man and his wife. I had the chance to read about it in this book, “The Southern Highlander and His Homeland“. You should check it out, it’s a great read.

One of the things I’ve come to appreciate most about the art of grit is this – the one who grimaces under a heavy load inspires no one to join in their slavery. But conversely what happens when one sings behind the plow? Does it not cause others to see the joy in that particular work and to consider the possibilities for themselves? This was the lesson reiterated to me from reading the life of John C Campbell. It’s just like Paul said when he wrote in Philippians 2, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” and then followed that up with, “Do all things without grumbling or disputing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world, holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.”

The Joy that comes in the morning

When Jesus was calling people like you and me to follow him he said, “Come to me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” There’s a great lesson here in the realities of grit – of how we start, continue, and finish our work.

Let’s read it again a little more slowly, pause after each statement and consider what He’s saying to us, why He’s saying it and if we’re bold enough, how it is significant for us today. It’s an exercise that requires some patience, but it’s a good one.

Come to me…
all you who labor…
and are heavy laden…
and I will give you rest… 
Take my yoke upon you…
and learn from me…
for I am gentle and lowly in heart…
and you will find rest for your souls… 
For my yoke is easy…
and my burden is light.

It’s good to pause and consider these simple straightforward statements of Jesus. We all labor. There are many ways in which our labor can become heavy laden. Jesus is offering us to take His yoke – a yoke which is easy. The Lord desires for us to come and learn from Him. He assures us that He is a humble and gentle teacher. The lessons we learn from Him will cause our souls to rest. He seems to communicate that the way in which he puts the work together means that the yoke is not a struggle, difficult, nor complex. And finally, He wants us to know that His burden is actually a joy because it is light.

I get it, you might be wondering what all this Jesus stuff have to do with grit. But think about it, no one else in the cosmos understands more fully the courage and resolve – that true strength of character – that it takes to start, continue and finish what you put your hand to than Jesus Christ. Granted, throughout the ages, and in our time, and even within the Christian faith many people have done much to rob the Lord’s teachings of their true intention. Often the joy that could be derived from abiding in His words and understanding the work that He has given us to do is disguised and covered up by our own shenanigans. I know I have discredited his words and found convenient ways to cheapen their meaning.

And I think it’s okay to admit that – He’s a humble teacher who knows we each have our own learning disabilities and he deals with us gently. Lord knows there’s many a teacher who I tried their patience while acting a like a clown just to get attention – with little to no concern for learning. It’s all part of our unfolding story of repentance and faith toward God. Don’t we all struggle with leaning on our own understanding when he calls us to trust in Him with all our heart and acknowledge him in all our ways? At some point, I hope we’re all able to confess like the Apostle Peter in the Gospels that in Christ we have found the words of life. And grander yet, to agree with what he later wrote in his first epistle, that there is a joy that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading awaiting all who believe! The true measure of one’s grit comes from following Jesus, who is the only one who can give us real inspiring joy-filled purpose and meaning to our existence – to our work. And that’s really the message of this post – Jesus is the reason we can sing behind the plow.

The dichotomy of a lobotomy

All of mankind suffers from The Great Deception and its awkward seemingly definitive dichotomy. It’s common to believe that there is a sacred/secular divide – and that the two cannot mix. You might find yourselves asking “Is JC a pastor or is he a business consultant and why is he trying to blend the two?” For most of us, our experience with the Christian faith includes some level of “scripture punching”. We don’t need more abuse when we’re already battered and bruised. These are perilous times, and we all struggle to understand the effects of sin’s full-frontal lobotomy. Things have been severed in our minds and we’re left with this hole. Things have been broken that were meant to be whole. But Jesus still says, “Come to me… and I will give you rest.” He can be trusted. He is for us, not against us.

The Master Crafted’s brand is unashamedly rooted in this identity that God is The Master Craftsman. He has made it evident that what He has created is a Masterpiece, which has no rival. He has formed you and me fearfully and wonderfully to bear His image. We are the work of His hands. We are created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. He can reverse this accursed psycho-surgery which plagues us all. And we believe this is a pearl of unshakable and profound wisdom upon which we can enter confidently into His workshop and humbly submit to His teaching because He is the author of all true Renaissance both now and for all eternity. His healing touch is so deeply needed in our world today, restoring what Satan has sought to kill, steal and destroy. We can take great comfort in His words. For all those who labor and are heavy-laden can find rest for our souls when we come to Him.

Our call to action…

It is so easy for us to fall into the line of thinking that sees our work as a burden and chore instead of an inspiring, joy-filled business. So many of us have determined our identity apart from Christ, and instead of trusting in Him we have leaned on our own understanding. Which means we will find ourselves striving to accomplish a work which the Lord never called us to do in the first place. But as the Lord already fully knows, this only results in us feeling weary and heavy-laden – which is why He seeks us out saying, “Come to me…”. And the answer doesn’t reside in the art of delegation to relieve us in our constant striving. While we might believe that “many hands make light work”, in the end, have we not simply spread our weariness to others and caused the wayward cycle to continue? Instead, he says, “Come to me…”

Like the psalmist warned us,

“Unless the Lord builds the house,
    those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the Lord watches over the city,
    the watchman stays awake in vain.
It is in vain that you rise up early
    and go late to rest,
eating the bread of anxious toil;
    for he gives to his beloved rest.”
[Psalm 127:1,2]

God opposes the proud…

For me personally, it’s been easy to convince myself that no one is willing or wants to do the work with me so I must “pony up” and do it myself – somehow I will have to find a way to work harder. I often tell myself, “work smarter not harder”. But when I sit down and stop for a second and listen… I hear the Lord saying, “Come to me… all you who labor… and I will give you rest” everything turns quiet and the good shepherd of Psalm 23 comes and tends to my lostness and He leads me back onto level ground.

As small business owners, we often find ourselves overwhelmed by this burden to do it all ourselves, which inevitably means we cannot experience true joy and we become slaves to our work. There is a book from my childhood that comes to mind – The Little Red Hen.  The book’s intent was a moralistic tale about the importance of hard work and the shame, as well as consequences of laziness. But I often find that mantra of “…fine, I’ll do it myself” quickly leading me into isolation and more importantly away from Christ. In this mindset, even if joy could be experienced, we would find it difficult if not impossible to share it with anyone else. As small business owners, when we foster this kind of culture will not only cripple ourselves but the rest of those involved in our business.

But gives grace to the humble…

There is a posture and a path, which upon its discovery, puts Jesus Christ in the center of our workshop. It’s a posture of humility – a humility which leads us down a path with Christ as our teacher. And in this process, everything graciously and lovingly transforms from darkness into light! It’s not even so much that things change but that they become visible. We are no longer blinded by the darkness, things which once were stumbling blocks become building blocks and our vision of the work we are called to do becomes clear.

In His workshop…

In His workshop, the work is carefully crafted and created by design, it’s thought out and prepared beforehand so that we can walk in it. It is laid out in such a way that it is a joy to engage in the effort with Him. His yoke is easy, one simple step building upon another. He draws out a team of people who resonate with the work that He’s designed because He has prepared them to do so. At each step, He provides clear measurable tasks that achieve what is critical to quality. Nowhere in the workshop can vain or worthless things be found for He has removed them from the process – they are not even in the workshop. It is a place of peace and rest. Christ’s workshop is a place of shalom!

So if the workshop is chaotic and cluttered, we can be sure that it is disrupting us from focusing on the work that needs to be done. If it is causing us to look back and even take our hand off the plow – we must stop and listen and consider the call of Master Craftsman to come to Him. When our workshop causes us to be confused and unfocused, it typically leads us only to try and work harder while barely achieving the same result or worse. But the goal in Christ’s workshop is to create shalom – a reality of peace and completeness. And His purpose is to honor and champion that space so that His workers find rest for their souls.

  • everything has its place and everything is in its place
  • structure is created
  • disciplines are instilled
  • skills are taught
  • useful tools are provided
  • focused routines are established so that shalom is found
  • inspiring joy-filled business is revealed.
  • a culture of “making all things beautiful” is cultivated.

This is the natural result when we come to understand in our hearts that the work to which we have been called by The Master Craftsman is holy, right and good – and that by God’s grace it is a work that we have been handcrafted to do. We come to see ourselves as a tool in the hands of a magnificent redeemer, where He is using us to craft a space here on earth to accomplish His will. And so as we are doing it, we rejoice and sing because our work is providing the opportunity to reap in joy! And when this joy is placed into the hands of our customers it becomes a gift like no other.

This is one of the reasons we developed the Tenfold Project the way we did, to help others discover a posture and a path where their workshops allow their grit to reveal the beauty The Master Crafted. This is the fulfillment of the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray, “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” We believe that when the soul truly finds rest in Christ even our work causes us to “sing behind the plow”.

We are here to help you discover the joy of shalom in your place of business. We can learn from Christ how to shoulder the load evenly. He can draw together a team that is yoked correctly so that a song can be heard as the plow sinks perfectly into the fallow ground and prepares it for planting the good seed. And we can be sure that He will continue the work unto the harvest for all to enjoy its bounty. If you’re interested in learning more about our Tenfold Program that we are offering this fall click on the link below and schedule a time that works best with your schedule. We would love the opportunity to talk with you and learn more about your business and how we can help.

1 thought on “Grit and singing behind the plow

  1. […] to mind when you think of the word entrepreneurship? There are three that come to my mind ah-ha, grit, and […]

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