3 Key Words for Long-Term Work {Book Club}

Today we’re discussing three chapters in Tattoos on the Heart: The Power of Boundless Compassion by Gregory Boyle.

Chapter 5 — Slow Work

Chapter 6 —  Jurisdiction

Chapter 7 — Gladness

As I read these three chapters I thought, “These three themes are the heart of the work we do. If we could just remember, slow work, jurisdiction, and gladness, what a difference it would make in our ministries.

Slow Work. 

I loved the story of the gang member who was in Camp Munz and didn’t want to get his tattoos removed and then, at a ball game, leaned over to Father G and whispered, “I get out Tuesday … I’ll call ya Wednesday … I wanted ta … take my tattoos off.”

Father G continues: “Teilhard de Chardin wrote that we must ‘trust in the slow work of God.’ Ours is a God who waits. Who are we not to? It takes what it takes for the great turnaround. Wait for it.”

The slow work of God. We’ve talked about this before: the urgency of the worlds problems, the sometimes unrealistic expectations of supporters (who are we kidding, the sometimes unrealistic expectations of ourselves!), the desire we wrestle with to see change NOW.

To go another way can take 180 degree change, one degree at a time. I admit there are times I want to say, “Let’s do this! You start changing and I’ll stand behind you and shove on that change too and together we’ll shove this puppy out.”

“Sooner or later, we all discover that kindness is the only strength there is.” Not shoving from behind or pulling others to catch up to where you desire them to be. Kindness and trusting in the slow work of God.


“Thank you, Junior. That was a very nice thing to say.”

Junior waved me on, as if papally blessing me as my day begins.

“Oh, come on now, G, you know,” he says, spinning his hand in a circular motion, “You’re in my . . . jurisdiction.”

I can’t be entirely sure what Junior meant. Except for the fact that we all need to see that we are in each other’s ‘jurisdictions,’ spheres of acceptance–only all the time. And yet, there are lines that get drawn, and barriers erected, meant only exclude. Allowing folks into my jurisdiction requires that I dismantle what I have set up to keep them out. 

Doesn’t the enemy of your soul want you to believe, “It’s safer to keep the walls up and keep out the threats.” Which sounds smart in part. We do need to keep threats out, but in his trickery The Enemy has confused us what’s a threat and what’s not. Because he’s good at lying, we believe him and become isolated in our jurisdiction. We weren’t meant to go it alone, we were meant for connection. One of the reasons connection is a heartbeat of Velvet Ashes is because it’s a heart beat of God.


We try to find a way, then, to hold our fingertips gently to the pulse of God. We watch as our hearts begin to beat as one with the One who delights in our being. Then what do we do? We exhale that same spirit of delight into the world and hope for poetry. (147)


We want to cover our bets, though. a battle gets waged between disparate takes on God’s hidden agency. What seem to vex us is our tendency to conjure up a tiny God. (151)


He was pretty much beat up, and I presumed an encounter with rivals. “My God,” I say to him, “What happened to you?”

Lorenzo, nonchalant and unbothered, points at his numerous red markings and scabs and dismisses it all with glee. “Oh this? My bike was teaching me how to fly.” Music with nothing playing. (163)


This book has challenged me to see how VAST God is and reminded me of his delight in me. His delight in you. His delight in us. As Father G said, the more I sense and taste his delight, delight flows more easily out of me. Life is still hard and messy and at times heart breaking. Delight does not negate these truths. Instead, it grows us and helps us to hold hard in one hand and delight in the other.

Slow Work. Jurisdiction. Gladness.


What stood out to you?

See you in the comments, Amy

P.S. Reading plan: We’ll finish the book next week. I can’t wait to reread chapter 8, as was foundational in forming part of my ministry philosophy. Our next book is Emotionally Healthy Spirituality by Peter Scazzero.

Disclosure : Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site. 


  1. T September 17, 2015

    Sounds like a great book!  I tried to get it from the library (in a biiig county), but they didn’t have it.  Sorry I haven’t been able to read w/you!


    1. Amy Young September 18, 2015

      T, it really is. If you ever get a gift card for books from someone, I’d recommend this one be on your wish list 🙂

  2. Anna September 17, 2015

    I was a little behind in my reading- traveling combined with homeschool is eating up all my time!  But I finally had a chance to catch up- who needs sleep anyway. 😉  I already want to go back and reread these chapters.  I can tell this is a book I’m going to need to read a couple of times.  I marked the part that you did about the slow work of God.  I’m always glad for God’s patience in my life… not so glad when I have to be patient.  (or when I think that God is being too patient with someone else!)

    One thing that really cracked me up, but was also really relatable, is the “pre traumatic stress disorder.”  I’m pretty sure I’ve had that in some periods of my life.  I also joke about Post Dramatic Stress Disorder (PDSD) which is stress over other people’s drama.  It’s a real thing- the definition is something like people affected by watching too much drama or violence.

    Anyway, I also love the “jurisdiction” idea.  I have realized more how much everything around us really does affect us in so many ways.  We can’t think that we will remain untouched.

    And gladness… “God is surely too busy delighting in us to wan to ship us off in hand-baskets to Hades.”  Love that!

    1. Amy Young September 18, 2015

      Anna, whenever you can pop in is lovely! And I love what you said about being glad with God’s patience with us, but wanting him to PICK UP THE PACE with others. So true! And I also like PDSD!!! Brilliant 🙂

  3. JulieB September 19, 2015

    I have loved this book!  Sometimes I just laugh out loud over some of his descriptions and conversations with his homies.  I can so totally picture it all.  In my previous life as a pediatric nurse at a large Children’s Hospital I have had some Homeboys and Homegirls – either as patients themselves or as parents.  I will never forget the time I asked where the mother of a particular baby was, that I was told by the baby’s “aunt” that the mother was “on vacation”.  Dumb me, I asked innocently when will she be back?  Then I learned that being on “vacation” means doing time!  I had so many things to learn.

    I love Father G’s heart and love for the gang members.  I love how they love and respect him back because they know he is in their jurisdiction!  He is in their court and on their team!  They know it without a doubt that this is a man who lives Jesus and unconditional love among them.   What a ministry – what a heart of compassion.  I finished the book today – but will refrain from commenting on the end of the book.  Laughter and tears and a longing to have a more compassionate heart!

  4. Phyllis October 6, 2015

    I’m a bit late here, too, but I am really loving this book! The language–both the Spanish and, um, other stuff–have thrown me off some, but that hasn’t been bad.


    Slow work… can you please pray with me for God’s slow work in someone’s life? Someone who has walked away from me (and God?), but who I still need to have hope for.


    And gladness! I loved that whole chapter. Fun and gladness and play have been God’s messages to me lately. I am naturally a serious person, but the heaviness of life lately has been too much. It’s time to change that. 🙂


    I won this book from you all at Velvet Ashes, and I just have to thank you again for that. I love it.

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