Posts Tagged ‘Call’

Living Within Your Gifts

October 25, 2016

Jesus was concerned with the state of  our hearts. Paul taught that, as well, but he became focused on how we live in community. I think maybe he obsessed on it.

Part of living in community is for each of us to work within our spiritual gifts. He talked about it in letters to the Romans, Corinthians, Ephesians.

Have you ever tried something for which you are neither well prepared or particularly talented in. You tried playing the piano (thanks, mom) but you have no particular feel for music. You tried management, but your heart was really in doing the work more than organizing others to do the work.

What happens when we are living out a role for which we have not gifts?

  • Our stress levels go up
  • We begin losing friends
  • We cannot sleep well
  • Worry is our constant companion.
  • We work harder and longer, yet it’s never enough
  • People tell us we don’t laugh like we used to
  • We catch ourselves blaming others as things go wrong
  • We begin to sense a distance developing between ourselves and others

Some people have the blessing of knowing early what their gifts are and what they want to do with them. Others of us struggle through our 20s and even 30s. Maybe our experiences are laying a foundation for later, but we haven’t found that calling.

Then, we find work and role that for which God created us. And we do it.

  • We have joy in service–for that’s what it feels like
  • We have joy in learning more and more about this new role
  • We attract people rather than repel them
  • We may work long hours, but it doesn’t seem like work
  • We can see success and progress even when it looks like we may fail
  • We take responsibility for our own work

Are you unsure of just what your giftedness might be? There are many self evaluation “tests”. I’ve taken a number over the years. I know my Myers-Briggs profile. I’ve had others as part of employment processes. You can go to Google and find evaluation sites.

Or maybe you know, because what you are doing is a joy. That is a great blessing.

If God Is Calling Us, Then We Must Listen

August 30, 2016

President of Company: Gary, no one listens to me.

Gary: Huh?

President: No one listens to me.

Gary: Huh?

President: I talk and no one listens.

Gary: Huh?

President: Oh….

Sometimes I just had to get ol’ Dave out of his usual funk.

But, we all have that feeling. It seems no one is listening.

We have something on our minds to share. We have a problem. Or a joy. We’d love to tell someone else. But no one listens.

Must be what God feels like.

The other leaders of our small group decided that four classes in Ephesians was more than enough. They skipped through chapters 5 and 6 in 40 minutes and proclaimed we had learned!

But I’m still stuck in the letter. I’ve never studied it in detail. It is a marvelous piece of writing.

Paul prays for us to be filled with God. Then he shows us a glimpse of spiritual formation in the life of the church and the family and the household. Then he goes  back to the part about filled with God and extends it with the metaphor of spiritual formation as personal body armor in our fight against the evil one who attacks us with insidious thoughts, emotions, and desires.

So, right after he prays for us, he begs us

Be worthy of the calling to which you have been called…

If we have been called by God, then we must listen so that we hear that voice calling us. Otherwise, how do we know about that calling?

At Willow Creek, they teach about the whisper. Sometimes God calls us and it’s not a thunderclap. Like Elijah when God called him to a mountain top to talk to him. He spoke not in the mighty wind or the loud thunder from the lightning. He spoke in a whisper.

To hear a whisper, we had best be still. And attentive. And prepared to respond. Maybe God just whispers, “Go say hi to that person over there.” Or sometimes, “It would be good for you to volunteer for that trip.” Or even, “Quit your job, simplify your life, and follow me.”

Listening is the foundation of spiritual formation.

You Are Who You Are

August 22, 2016

“You are who you are.”

Weird phrase. Sounds like a truism.

Psalm 139 opens with, “O Lord, you have searched me and known me.” Later it says, “For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.”

Paul writing to the Ephesians tells us to be worthy of our calling.

So, I was thinking about these weird little phrases, such as “you are who you are.”

Few things are sadder when someone tries to be what they are not. A short kid thinks he’s an NBA star. A tone-deaf person thinks she’s a great singer. A person short on vision and unable to connect with people thinks he’s a leader.

Maybe we dream of being a great speaker and in reality our calling and gifts point toward teaching and mentoring.

Worse still, are the hypocrites. Jesus once said (I bet in reality he said it a lot), “Woe to you hypocrites.”

Hypocrites means someone who wears a mask. They present a persona to the world that is not even close to what they are.

They pretend to be godly.

They pretend to be wealthy.

They pretend to pray.

They pretend they are compassionate.

Yet, their hearts are hardened. They are actually insecure, or angry, or greedy, or self-absorbed, and so on.

Paul prays that we are not like that. That we truly are filled with the spirit of God. That we find our true calling in life and live it out.

The psalmist concludes 139 with, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my thoughts. See if there is any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Those are challenging words. They might make us change direction.

Being True To Your Calling

August 5, 2016

I once thought that religion and spiritual formation were concerned with meditating until you had a Godly Spiritual experience.

And I did. And I did. I was in my 30s. Now what? That’s why I’m so concerned that we teach people after a conversion experience what comes next.

I’m reminded of a Zen master saying, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

I’m reminded of a Zen master saying, “Before enlightenment, chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment, chop wood, carry water.”

Paul was concerned with that very thing.

In his letter to the Ephesians after praying that his listeners be filled with God, he says, “I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called.”

We are all born with some gifts. They constitute a calling. Some are  called to preach because they can speak well. Some are called to teach because they understand the subject and can transfer that knowledge and enthusiasm to someone else. Some are called to one from among various types of service.

Bill Hybels and Steve Carter spoke this spring at Willow Creek about finding your gifts. Try one out, said Hybels. See how it fits. If it doesn’t seem right, then try out another one. You’ll find what you are made for.

The commentator in my Bible translation says of Ephesians 4:1, “Spiritual formation is largely dependent upon our capacity to live a called life. Calling presupposes a God who graciously speaks and a people who willingly listen. In Revelation, the letter sent to the Ephesians ends this way: ‘Let anyone who has an ear listen to what the Spirit is saying to the churches.’ Listening is a primary spiritual formation practice.”

And if your spiritual gift is leadership, then the most important of the practices you should be working on is listening.

Do You Want To Get Lucky

August 27, 2015

An old joke from the Newhart Show set in Vermont. The handyman, Tom Poston, finds a stray dog and takes him in. He names the dog Lucky, because he is, well, lucky to have a home.

Enter Stephanie, the cute young woman. Says Poston in his dry voice and deadpan face, “Stephanie, if you’re ever feeling lonely, you can come to my room and get Lucky.” <badda boom>

I have a fried who has moved from writing about technology and business to writing about life. He’s questioning his Catholic precedents right now. Happens to all of us at some time, I guess.

His latest writing was on getting lucky.

Are some people just lucky?

Are they lucky because they have a positive mental attitude?

Are they not lucky but practice “active consciousness” bringing good things into their lives (he read a book).

Two answers

I go with two answers.

First is the obviously practical. Luck is where preparation meets opportunity.

If you get the opportunity to speak on a subject or finally play an instrument in the orchestra, then you had better have been practicing for years so that you can succeed.

Second is not so obviously practical–but in effect it is.

You still need preparations–the disciplines of study, practice, prayer, service.

However, you also need to pray with intention. Not just wishful thinking. Not just vague prayers to God.

No. It is the hard work of prayer. It is engaging your mind and strength and soul in prayer. You have intention. You pray on purpose, with purpose.

You pray, “God please bring a person into my life who….” Maybe it’s someone to whom you can share the gospel message. Someone who offers a chance at a service or ministry you’ve been searching for. Someone who needs a mentor or friend.

Or you pray, “Lord, I feel you nudging me toward a mission, a ministry. Open my eyes and show me the ministry you have in mind for me.” I did that over the  space of a year or more. Then I got a phone call.

Lucky? Or good? Or, ready when God calls?

Discerning God’s Will

August 19, 2015

“You will win the election if it is God’s will,” the lady told a political candidate.

Subsequent conversations with others about God’s will centered on the question of how do you know and what do you mean.

Is it God’s will for whether the politician wins or not? Or, is the issue whether the politician is following God’s will–his calling–for his life? Maybe he sat in contemplation and God whispered that his talents would be best used as a politician. Although I have to say from personal observation (I’ve met him briefly, he’s my representative somewhere) that he probably had a better calling as a Navy SEAL than as a legislator. But, who am I to question God?

Psychologist Henry Cloud spoke the past two weekends at Willow Creek Community Church on that topic. God’s will for your life–not my legislator.

He talked about finding your passion. Getting your passion aligned with your talents. That will be a hint about following God’s will for your life.

But you need discernment. Is this a real passion or a momentary infatuation? Does it match my talents and skills with passion for service? Can you visualize a beneficial outcome?

He talked of two builders. Each made a pile of money developing tracts of land, building houses, and selling them.

One was tired and burned out. He found it boring to do the same old thing over again–even if he did earn millions of dollars.

The other was energized. “I just love what I’m doing. I fly over the undeveloped tract of land and visualize houses and parks and families grilling and kids playing. I just love this.”

One found his passion. His heart was in it, and his heart was in a right relationship. He made a lot of money, but his heart was on helping others.

This one, no doubt, had found God’s will for his life. And many benefited. The other merely found a job he was good at.

Call Me When I Care

July 20, 2015

In Memory Of

When I Cared

He needed to pass German to complete his BA and officially get the job waiting for him. The professor recommended he get me to tutor him. Why? I’ll never know.

He passed German. But that’s not the story. This was the beginning years of defining the Baby Boomers as the “Me Generation.” I remarked about having some empathy for the German professor who left Vienna and wound up in Ada, Ohio.

“I don’t care. I don’t have time to think about others,” he replied.

That conversation returns to me at times.

It does seem to mark the majority of Boomers (fortunately not all).

But the remark popped back into my consciousness when I saw a middle-aged woman entering Tim Horton’s the other day with a T-shirt with the phrase printed above.

I’m affected deeply by such lost people who don’t care—and are proud of it. How can you go through life so self-centered that caring is hard work? I have trouble understanding. When I care about spiritual formation and see such void, I’m sad.

But Jesus understood.

He told the story of four men. One man was robbed and beaten and left bleeding by the side of the road. Two religious men walked by (even worse than driving by protected by the steel shell of a car). And they kept on walking.

The fourth man walked the road. He stopped. We know nothing about his spiritual life. We do know that he was not part of the “official” religion of the area. Regardless, he stopped and helped. In a word, he cared.

I am saddened by seeing so many people who do not care. But then I meet or read about people who do and see the difference that they make in the world around them—and I still hope.

Being the Church Not Necessarily Being At Church

February 24, 2015

For those of my readers who belong to a church, do you know the people who seem to always be in the building whenever the doors are open?

Some people have been so dedicated, or something, to their church that they feel they must be involved in everything. Committee meetings, choir practice, kitchen duty, fold bulletins.

There is a value to some of that. But, at some point you have to pause and ask why you feel the need to be away from the family that much. Or, maybe like me, you just feel a need to serve. That makes it difficult for me to say the “N” word–NO. I’m learning. I’ve been pushing things off on others in one form or another for years. I call it developing leaders.

When we were called to be the church, we were not called to be at the church at all times. The spiritual discipline of service should not be skewed into service within the four walls of your building. In fact, it’s hard to be the church when you are at the church building.

Being the church calls outside. To meet with those along the way. Heal, teach, help, listen. Do as Jesus did as he walked the land. He is master; we are disciple. We are called to practice as the master practiced.

Our congregation offers many ways for people to be the church locally, regionally, internationally. But even that should not be a limit. Wherever we go, there  we are the church.

Doing What God Calls You To Do

April 28, 2014

The city was known for its violence and cruelty. Its treatment of outsiders was known and feared.

It had gotten so bad that God decided to act. It was either that the city, meaning the attitudes and orientation of all the people in the city, change its ways or it would be destroyed.

God called a man to take this message to the city. He went to the city and preached what we would call repentance. That means he called the people to change the attitude of their hearts from one of cruelty and violence to one oriented toward walking with God. This attitude would be reflected in the way that they lived, such that instead of a reputation for cruelty, they would gain a reputation as God-followers.

The man went, he preached, they changed. Great story.


The man did not want to do that. The city was his people’s archenemy. He wanted it destroyed and all the people who lived there.

So he did what anyone would do in that situation. He fled. He ran away from God. But God cannot be escaped. He caught the man and pretty much forced him to go to the city and preach. And the man was successful. The city and all the inhabitants repented and changed their ways. God did not destroy the city. The man sat outside and pouted. He wanted destruction. God wanted a right life.

The man’s name was Jonah. God caught him with a fish who grabbed him and took him back to the land. The story isn’t about the fish. The story is about repentance. About how God wanted everyone (not just the Hebrews) to repent and follow Him. It’s also a story about call.

Do you feel a call. It weighed on my soul for a long time that I should have a ministry. Didn’t know what it would be. I thought I knew. But then came a call. Actually, I was called for the same ministry many years ago. Said I couldn’t do it. God waited. He struck. I’m stuck.

How about you? What is weighing on your heart? Or maybe it’s a clear voice that you’re trying to ignore. Don’t ignore. In the end, God wins.

Perseverance and Perspective

April 25, 2014

Sometimes I like to touch on leadership issues. Several months ago, I took on a couple of leadership roles where some roadblocks popped up on the path. I’m still fighting through some. But I was reminded of two words that have stood me well over the years.

Perseverance. Perspective.

Someone asked me earlier this week how one of the roles I had undertaken was going. Moving along, I replied. I guess you just need perseverance. Sometimes you just have to keep moving, no matter what. Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off the goal. — Henry Ford.

Perspective means keeping the scope of live in mind. What does it all mean in the timeline of your life? There are things I’m taking on where I’m re-evaluating what the situation means in the scope of my life. Is this what I want to be doing? What is the importance relative to other things I’m doing?

I often ask the perspective question to dads and coaches (and sometimes moms) in youth soccer. The result of the 10-yr-olds game is not going to mean the difference of a World Cup draw seeding. Mostly they perspective of the kids is on the ice cream at the end of the game–win or lose.

Perspective will help your perseverance when your goals are aligned. When you are doing what you feel called to do. It will keep you going when obstacles seem like barriers rather than problems.