Acton Institute Powerblog

Dory Rowing in the Canyon: Where Work and Wonder Meet

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One day, while riding down the Colorado River, Amber Shannon suddenly realized her vocation. “I really wanted to row little wooden boats down big rapids with big canyon walls,” she says. “That was the life dream.”

Although it may sound impractical to some, tour guide John Shocklee calls being a boatman in the Grand Canyon “the most coveted job in the world.” “It’s definitely easier to get a PhD than it is to get a dory here in the Grand Canyon,” he says.

Learn more about Shannon’s story here:

The economies of wonder and creative service each have their own unique attributes demanding their own unique form of stewardship. But like all spheres of God’s creation, we also see plenty of connection and cross-pollination. Shannon feels called to a life of wonder, of pressing toward and immersing herself in close and challenging encounters with God’s creation. Yet in doing this, she also helps and guides others to experience and behold that same wonder. She works, and she serves.

Some might respond by saying that the work of dory-rowing is “useless,” and in a certain sense, they’d be right. But so what?

As Evan Koons reminds us, there’s a bigger picture to God’s creation than some humanity-wide conquest for utilitarian gain. “There’s more to the story than what we do and create,” he says. “Maybe understanding God’s Economy of Wonder and living it out starts with beholding the master of the universe and his unwarranted, gratuitous gift of everything that exists.”

dory1God has given us much that exists simply for our time and attention, and he gave it to us for a reason. Learning to both work and rest within useless, gratuitous wonder means further understanding the full character of God and the shape and aim of his love, expanding our imaginations, stirring our hearts, refining our palates, and tuning our ears.

Being good stewards of this space is bound to feel “useless,” particularly in our age of shortcuts and convenience. And yet, despite the call of those competing pressures, priorities, and distractions — some worthier than others — the flourishing of all else depends on it.

For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles DVD

For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles DVD

For the Life of the World is an entertaining film series that explores the deeper meaning of Salvation. Have you ever wondered, “What is my Salvation actually FOR?” Is it only about personal atonement, about getting to heaven, or something that comes later? Is it just to have a “friend in Jesus?”

Join Evan Koons and his friends – Stephen Grabill, Amy Sherman, Anthony Bradley, Makoto Fujimura, John M. Perkins, Tim Royer and Dwight Gibson – as they discover a “new perspective,” the BIGGER picture of what it means to be “in the world, not of it.” This seven-part film series will help you, your friends, church or organization investigate God’s Economy of All Things – OIKONOMIA (a Greek word that has a lot to say about God’s plan for his creation, the world, and us.)

Explore how God’s purposes are woven into every area of our lives: family, work, art, charity, education, government, recreation and all creation! The Bible calls us Strangers and Pilgrims, living in "the now and not yet" of God’s Kingdom Come on earth. We are also called to be salt and light, to have a transforming presence among our neighbors. Rediscover the role of the church and how our lives lived on earth matter in God’s plan for the world.

Designed for deep exploration, the series invites viewers to watch the series again for new insights. Also, check out the companion Field Guide to jump-start group and individual investigation and enhance the film experience! FOR THE LIFE OF THE WORLD Field Guides are available in print or via streaming access at

2nd Edition

Joseph Sunde is an associate editor and writer for the Acton Institute. His work has appeared in venues such as The Federalist, First Things, The City, The Christian Post, The Stream, Charisma News, Juicy Ecumenism, Ethika Politika, Made to Flourish, and the Center for Faith and Work. Joseph resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota with his wife and four children.