One of the great joys of blogging is that the blogosphere is filled with delicious morsels that pop up in unexpected places. The other day, I was flowing a series of blog links when someone mentioned a book by Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird, which isn’t about birds, but writing. In fact, the subtitle of the book is, "Some Instructions on Writing and Life."
A week later, I was in Borders when I came across this little book and, because I had read something positive about it in a blog, picked it up and started to read it. And have found it to be a delightfully wonderful, thoughtful and inspiring book.
Now, as to the title, it comes from an experience her brother had with their father.
"Thirty years ago my older brother, who was ten years old at the time, was trying to get a report on birds written that he had three months to write. [It] was due the next day. We were out at our family cabin in Bolinas, and he was at the kitchen table close to tears, surrounded by binder paper and pencils and unopened books on birds, immobilized by the hugeness of the task ahead of him. Then my father sat down beside him, put his arm around my brother’s shoulder and said, ‘Bird by bird, buddy. Just take it bird by bird."
What a great image and phrase for those of us in ministry. The hugeness of the task ahead of us can be immobilizing. Trying to build a life-giving church is a daunting task. Rarely does a plan ever work out the way we intend it to. People are people. Budgets are budgets. Ministry is ministry. Expectations are expectations. Satan is Satan. Evil is evil. Conflict is conflict. And the great commission still lays in front of us every day.
So, how do we overcome the feeling of being immobilized?
Well, one way is to think, "Bird by bird." Books are not written as books—they’re written as words that form paragraphs that form pages that form chapters that form books. The key to writing a book, says Anne Lamott, is thinking, "Bird by bird." Don’t worry about the whole. Just do the small task in front of you. Likewise, successful ministries aren’t built overnight. They’re built "bird by bird."
So, whenever you’re feeling overwhelmed with having too much to do, maybe you might like to forget thinking about the whole. And instead think, "Bird by bird I can do this." Because you can. Hang in there! God is faithful!!