The Miracle of What We Don’t Want, Part 1

I had hoped and knew something new was happening. There was a stirring, a combination of incidents, and a level of uneasiness. I thought God was providing something new in my career. Not a new job but maybe a new side gig or teaching opportunity.

I just couldn’t shake this interest and even calling I had for helping people grow spiritually, for helping people become disciples of Jesus Christ. Last spring, I began to pray that God would make it clear to me what he wanted from me, that he would provide a way to something that matched my longings and interest.

I took a few matters into my own hands.

First, I signed up for the Apprentice Experience. I wanted to scratch the itch I had to learn and experience community among like-minded individuals.  Also, to chronicle my experience and to help raise a little money, I started this blog. I had grand ideas that this blogging and learning would morph into a ministry. I wanted to go into churches and lead workshops on Growing Up in Christ or be a retreat speaker. I wanted to be sought after as an expert on gaining spiritual maturity. And I kept praying that God would bring these ideas into fruition. That my ministry, even my career, would see a change.

I felt that it was time. I never expected this.

detour

Shannon Kokoska via Flickr Creative Commons)

In the matter of a week back in December, a colleague of mine resigned, the Director of the Library announced that she would be stepping down at the end of the month and I was now being asked to be the Interim Director. Remember that I had been praying for some kind of change, for God to make it clear to me what new direction he was guiding me towards.

But really God? This is what you came up with? A managerial job in the midst of a wave of turnover and upheaval? We were already losing one librarian, one was stepping down soon, and another was in the hospital just weeks away from her death. This is not the smooth, well-organized chance to do ministry that I was counting on.

This was going to be drudgery and really, really hard. Thanks a lot God.

Read Part 2 on Wednesday.

Advertisements

Vulnerability Is A Game Changer

Vulnerability has been a theme running through many of the readings we have done through the Apprentice Experience.

My friend Kris has taken vulnerability on as a calling and has seen great progress in his own life and among others willing to do it. He encouraged me to be more vulnerable on the blog and I have tried to tell more of my story instead of just passing along nuggets of expertise.

But what is vulnerability?

James Bryan Smith discussed the book The Cure with us at Gathering 2. He addressed a section called “Living With Nothing Hidden.” This section had this to say about vulnerability: “Instead of pretending we are “doing fine,” give others an opportunity to love us…and they will.”

I know that I would much rather tell people I am doing fine than have to get into the complexities of my Dad’s battle with Cancer or the stress of being an Interim Director of a College Library. I have this fear that if I do give people the opportunity to love me, they will blow me off or give superficial responses or barely listen or quickly move on to themselves.

I have to realize that the benefits of being vulnerable far outweigh any rejection or lack of validation that might come from taking the vulnerability risk.

I have tried being more open, I have tried to tell more of my story, I have tried taking responsibility for my failures as well as my successes. And I have received back true connection with people, true encouragement, and opportunities for growth in my own life.

Most of all, I have felt closer to the will of God. Vulnerability has led me to take risks and to let God guide me instead of me trying to manage every circumstance. This has brought deeper friendships, rewarding ministry opportunities, better blogging, and a deeper understanding of myself.

Are you willing to give others an opportunity to love you and to give God a better chance to work through you?

Then try a little vulnerability.

God Provides For What He Has Called You To

It is funny how this time last year, I had a calling but couldn’t see the path to make that calling a reality.

Last March, I had a phone call with John Carroll, Director of the Apprentice Experience. This call was designed to determine my fit for the Apprentice Experience. Though I was extremely excited about the possibility, I had my doubts that it would ever come to fruition.

What about the time commitment?

What about my family?

Isn’t this self-indulgent?

And my thoughts usually returned back to how can I pay for such a thing?

Image result for apprentice experience

I began to devise some plans and determined that if people I know can raise money for mission trips why couldn’t I raise money for 18-months of discipleship training. I had to force myself to be vulnerable here. I knew there would be people who wouldn’t understand fund-raising for what looks like a series of spiritual retreats and small group activity. They would think that it is self-indulgent and a form of escapism. But I pushed ahead and knew there would be others that would totally get it and welcome the opportunity to help me.

Amazingly, I have had friends and family give. I have had people I have never met give and people I have barely seen in years and years. I have hosted a fund-raising party that saw people give hundreds of dollars and really commit to the cause. People’s willingness to give has been overwhelming.

God has provided in other ways as well and I have been totally blessed.

Last summer, I mentioned that I began praying for very specific things. One of my specific daily prayers was for the funds to complete the program. I can say, with a year left in the program, that I have met my fund-raising goal and have the funds to make all of the payments.

God has answered my prayers long before I thought possible.

When he calls you to something, He makes the way available for you to do it. I don’t know why I ever doubted this truth would apply to me.

Just Because It Is Christian Doesn’t Make It Beneficial

English: Wooden File Cabinet with drawer open....

Image via Wikipedia

I used to be very organized at work. I wasn’t one of those workers who took forever to return an email. If there was an RSVP for a meeting or luncheon, no one had to send me a reminder memo. I was on top of it. My office included open desk space and well labeled filing cabinets. My to-do list was refined, massaged, and edited daily and sometimes hourly. Did all of this make me a better employee? Was I adding true value to my employer? Was I doing truly meaningful work?

No, not really.

You can be the most organized person in the world and still not get meaningful things done. In some respects, I was busy organizing to avoid what was really important. Staying organized was shadow work but not the real thing. It was, as Tim Ferriss has said, “work for work sake.”

To avoid “work for work sake” you have to be able to determine what is truly important and let the rest take care of itself. I wonder if we do the same thing with our spiritual life? Are we busy with spiritual things yet ignoring what God is asking us to do? Does our spiritual life look better by human standards than it does to God’s standards?

Reading the latest buzz worthy Christian book, debating the latest theological trend, and listening to the next preacher superstar may make you look devout and knowledgeable, and you certainly are, in a sense, but it doesn’t mean that you are growing to become more like Christ. It doesn’t mean that you are becoming a more loving and generous person who is slow to anger and quick to forgive.

We may have to put away our books, our seminars, and our conferences and just spend some thoughtful hours with God in order to let him dictate what is most important in our life. Then, we need to go about living out that important thing and letting everything else be.

“OK, I Get It Lord”

On Jan. 5, I posted on this blog the following, “I want to discover the scriptures in a fresh way. God is found in his book and the best place for me to discover him and learn from him is within his word. I know this and I need to put my fear and guilt aside and embrace the wonderful treasure that is God’s word.”

This was my declaration that 2012 was going to be a year of discovery and emphasis on God’s word. January 5th was last Thursday and by Friday, I already had confirmation from God that I was on the right track. It was on Friday that I learned that our church would be going through the Read the Bible For Life curriculum. Then on Sunday, in the first few lines of his sermon, our Pastor stated that 2012 at our church would be the year of the Word as we collectively place an emphasis on reading Bible.

Was the church staff reading my mind? Did they know that this was going to be an area of emphasis for me as well?

Do you have these experiences where God keeps feeding you a similar message in various forms over a short amount of time? Maybe, the conversation you had with a coworker is the exact topic of your next Bible Study lesson. Or the point of a recent movie is discussed by the pastor the next time you visit church. Are the scripture passages you are reading, that you thought were seldom discussed, suddenly on every Facebook status and email message?

God knows we are not very perceptive and are easily distracted and clouded by countless things in our head. So, when he wants us to be aware of something he doesn’t just present it to us in one sitting but often multiple times and in multiple ways. At least this has been my experience.

So I get it Lord. You want me to focus on your Word this year. You have confirmed this in a timely way. Now I must respond by doing my part to read, study, and pray. If this is the journey that God wants me on, then I need to be accepting of whatever God has in store for me. Pray that I will stay committed to this emphasis.

This week, pay attention to the scripture, the songs, and the messages from God’s word that have come your way. Don’t be weird about it but try to see if there is a pattern or an emphasis that appears to be surfacing. Put up your spiritual antennas and see what you might pick up.

How to Find Maximum Fulfillment

The late 20th century professor and ethicist T.B. Maston once defined God’s will as “our maximum fulfillment.” I think about this quote regularly, especially when I am waging a war with myself over a part of my life that I am unwilling to change because I am afraid that I will lose something enjoyable. Maston stresses that only God’s will contains ultimate meaning and purpose, even happiness and enjoyment. Before you think that Maston was some super Christian that never had to face the realities outside a Christian context it would be best to understand something about his son.

Maston’s son was severely handicapped, had no use of his arms and legs, and never said a word in his life. Maston and his wife cared for their son for 50 plus years including feeding him, turning him over during the night, and countless other duties that most of us would never even imagine having to do for another person. But yet, Maston could say that God’s will is his maximum fulfillment. From a worldly perspective, Maston’s life experience would seem agonizing, torturous, and limited but in God’s Kingdom it may have still been difficult and challenging but it was also blessed with God’s strength, God’s mercy, God’s care, and God’s love. Why would anyone want to walk outside of this strength, mercy, and love?

Find God’s will and find your maximum fulfillment. This is a daily struggle for me as I seem to fight God’s will repeatedly. But slowly I am learning, slowly God is showing me that He knows what he is doing and that he has my best interest at heart. Oh Lord, that I might not fight you at every turn but submit to your will in my life.