What Does It Mean to Find Your Calling?

What Does It Mean to Find Your Calling?

1st and 2nd-year college students ask: What program do I major in?

3rd and 4th-year college students ask: What type of job do I pursue?

College alums ask: Am I in the right job? The right career?

For many people the question ultimately becomes: Am I called to do something? What am I called to do?

The answers aren’t clear. And the questions don’t end. They don’t end because many times our jobs, careers, and lives don’t jive with our deepest beliefs and values, or God’s Word.  You might say, at an archetypal level, we always feel a bit lost because we were created to work and we can’t find work that completely fulfills us; in short, we are looking for a way back to Eden — where we live in perfection relationship with God, humanity, and creation. The truth is that we won’t find it in this world, but in the next. So our quest in faith continues. It has to. We are wired to seek God’s blessing. It is our journey of faith.

What We Are Called To Do

The Gospel of Matthew calls us to be blessed. What does that mean?

It means to be pure of heart. It boggles the mind to think it is a blessing to be pure of heart. To be pure of heart seems so boring. It doesn’t seem like living that way would be any fun. But that is our good culture perverted by sin making us feel that way, not the Word of the Gospel.

So what does being holistically counter-cultural mean for our daily lives?

Three Levels Of Calling

Gordon Smith also tells us that in addition to being called to believe, we are called to a mission and to immediate responsibilities. In other words, I believe that when we choose to accept God’s Word we choose to strive to be pure of heart.  To be pure of heart means we accept an invitation to follow Jesus, seek our purpose in life (vocation), and perform our day-to-day work (occupation), forever trying to integrate our occupation with our vocation, which is the key to spiritual growth and happiness.

So choosing to follow Jesus is a fundamental, critical decision. Following that, a fundamental critical decision is discovering our mission, purpose, vocation.

Vocation vs Occupation

These days, when we hear the word calling, we hear it in the context of our job. Or, it refers only to the ministry. Both interpretations are extreme. Our calling is not our occupation, and it is not narrowly limited to working for a church; our mission is bigger than any job. Our occupation may be only a means to an end; or, it may be more. But more than likely we have a greater purpose, a more holy purpose. Even though we can argue that work is part of God’s good creation (Adam and Eve worked in the Garden before the Fall), our work life, the economy, etc. are also part of the fallen world. Our calling may be more pure, yet never (in this life anyway) practiced with moral perfection and purity of heart.

An analogy may be helpful. In our job, we tend to seek upward mobility. That is the way of the world. But Jesus calls us to downward mobility — to be a servant of all, a Good Samaritan. To get a job and career, we tend to advertise our “resume virtues.” We emphasize what we did according to an economic model. Yet when we die, people remember us for our “eulogy virtues,” for who we were according to a moral model. To put it another way, Adam I is the Adam of occupation. Adam II is the Adam of calling. The culture of occupation tends to be one of scarcity and upward mobility; the culture of vocation tends to be one of abundance and downward mobility.

  • “Adam I — the creating, building, and discovering Adam — lives by a straightforward utilitarian logic. It’s the logic of economics. Input leads to output. Effort leads to reward. Practice makes perfect. Pursue self-interest. Maximize your utility. Impress the world….To nurture you Adam I career, it makes sense to cultivate your strengths.
  • Adam II lives by an inverse logic. It’s a moral logic, not an economic one. You have to give to receive. You have to surrender to something outside yourself to gain strength within yourself. …In order to fulfill yourself, you have to forget yourself. In order to find yourself, you have to lose yourself….To nurture you Adam II moral core, it is necessary to confront your weaknesses” (David Brooks, The Road to Character, p. xii).

Other Myths About Vocation

In addition to equating our job to our occupation, we may have accepted other myths about calling.

  • Calling (vocation) is not something we find alone. God blesses us through other people. Calling requires accountability and feedback from our community. This reflects or primary, general calling; Elizabeth Newman writes that our primary calling “is to be a people who live in communion with our triune God” (“Called Through Relationship” in Kruschwitz, Vocation: Christian Reflection).
  • Calling (vocation) is not something we choose. What we choose is whether to accept it. Calling starts with listening, listening to what grieves us. To be called requires hearing. For example, “Moses did not invent or determine his vocation, he receives it from God….’Vocation’ differs from ‘career’ in this regard; while ‘career’ (related to a Medieval Latin word for ‘race track’) refers primarily to human effort (as in ‘What do you do for a living?’), vocation points in another direction. The initiative resides not with us, but with the One who calls and invites” (Newman, ibid).
  • Calling (vocation) is more than “finding our talents and figuring out what to do with them. Rather and more fully, it is discovering and living out of the infinite and gratuitous abundance of God” (Newman, ibid). Think of Moses: sometimes our calling may not match up with our talents.
  • Calling (vocation) is more than meeting market needs in a profitable way; calling pulls us into unprofitable situations. Vocations are revealed through grieving about the market’s shortcomings. Bill Hybels writes that calling begins with experiencing “holy discontent.” What in the world we grieve about is something God places on our heart.  For example, does economic injustice make you sad? Does racism? Segregation? Sexism? Poverty? Lack of childcare in your church or community? Lack of care or concern for the elderly? Lack of care and concern for the marginalized? The people in prison? Lack of good educational options? Food deserts? The inability to share information among friends and family? Cancer? Alcoholism?  The parts of the world’s brokenness that make you sad are those parts that are worth paying attention to.

Richard Goosen and R. Paul Stevens summarize nicely a positive perspective on calling in Entrepreneurial Leadership:

Dimensions of Vocation

  • God takes the initiative. “[Calling] is not generated from within a person but from the outside, and the outside comprises not merely our parents and our society, but God….All calling is based on the reality of a God who takes initiative, who seeks to include human beings in his grand project of transforming everything” (p. 111).
  • We are called to be others-focused. “We are called to a way of life…as other-oriented values and goals as the primary source of motivation. The calling is to life — relationships, civic responsibilities, church membership, family, neighboring and work — not just to work….we are called not only to invent, innovate and accomplish, but to do this in a particular way, the way of faith, hope and love, the way of justice, compassion and self-control” (pp. 111, 112).
  • We are called to be purpose-driven. “Calling…directs people to approach a particular life role (e.g. work) in a manner oriented toward demonstrating or deriving a sense of purpose or meaningfulness….The English Puritans brilliantly distinguished between the ‘general’ calling, by which people are summoned into a relationship with God to become children of God, and the ‘particular’ calling, by which people are guided into particular occupations, such as magistrate, homemaker, pastor or merchant” (p. 112).
  • We are called to a contribute to a Grand Purpose, to be part of the Grand Narrative. “Life and work are not merely for our own advancement, not even simply to provide for our families, but we are caught up in a grand purpose, in the grand story of God’s plan for creation and people. The entire notion of calling is rooted in the meta-narrative of the Christian faith and subsumed by it” (p. 113). Thus, “‘Calling is a transcendent summons, experienced as originating beyond the self, to approach a particular life role (e.g., work) in a manner oriented toward demonstrating or deriving a sense of purpose or meaningfulness, and that which holds other-oriented values and goals as primary sources of motivation'” (Philip Wu, as quoted in Entrepreneurial Leadership, pp. 109, 110). The Grand Narrative? Creation, Fall, Redemption.

A Process For Discerning Our Vocation

So if we believe God has given us a purpose for our lives as a way to bless us and call us to purity of heart, how do we discern that purpose? Goosen and Stephens give us some advice in the form of self-reflection questions.

  • What are our passions and motivations? What gets us our of bed in the morning? What makes us feel fully alive? “‘We ask to know the will of God without guessing that his will is written into our very beings'” (Elizabeth O’Connor, as quoted in Entrepreneurial Leadership, p. 120). “What do we daydream about? In what kind of activity do we lose all sense of time? When do [we] feel fully alive? What are the things [we] obsess about, wish [we] had more time to put energy into? What needs doing in the world that [we’d] like to put [our] talents to work on? What activities reflect deep and consistent interests? This is from God, built into us by the Creator” (p. 120). For Bill Hybels, this list should also include that part of the broken world that causes of grief. It will likely be something we experience personally. You might say, then, with Henri Nouwen, that we are called to be “Wounded Healers.”
  • What are our gifts and talents? What are we naturally good at doing? Where might there be an overlap between our skills and opportunities (to serve others and make a living) and our deepest motivations? “God calls us by equipping us to serve in a specific way” (p. 121). However, “God does not have a wonderful plan for our lives as is often proposed….God has something better than a wonderful plan: a wonderful purpose. A plan is terrifying, especially if we make a mistake in reading the directions. A purpose is evocative. A purpose is like a fast-moving stream that carries us along and allows for some mobility from side to side…” (p. 119).
  • What is our unique personality? There are many accessible tools to assess this and coaches to help us interpret the results. I have found Myers-Briggs and free on-line knockoffs (“16 Personalities”) to be helpful. Also, I have found Peter Drucker’s class article “Managing Oneself” to be valuable.
  • What values and virtues do we cherish? Values are “cherished ways of behaving.” E.g., living with integrity can be a value, as is living according to a vision and purpose. Virtues are ingrained personality traits, such as faith, hope, and love, that determine how we function. Virtues, in contrast to values, have opposites — vices.  Christian virtues include the fruits of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23)” (p. 122). [Vices might result from our need to be needed, a need for status and approval, a need to be in control — called “blocks and dysfunctionalities” (p. 123).]
  • What providential circumstances have led us to this point? It turns out that where we were born and the family we were born into and the one we created are important, as are the messy things in life we experienced. Henri Nouwen wrote a great book, Wounded Healers, to make the point that Christ was wounded to heal us. We too have experienced wounds which help us understand the circumstances of others. Parker Palmer also speaks best to this point. He says, “Let your life speak.” We don’t make the call. We listen to what God is already doing in our lives. Calling is something we see by looking in the rear-view mirror.
  • What is God saying about our purpose? Some people hear from God directly. Most of us don’t. “Some locutions or words come from without; they are corporeal and are heard in the ear even if no one else is able to witness the sound. Some come from the inmost parts of the soul. They are imaginary, though not in the sense of fabricated. They are not heard in the ear but experienced as an impression received by an imaginary faculty. And some locutions are intellectual and spiritual as God imprints a message in the depth of the person’s spirit and understanding” (p. 124).

Where do those questions overlap for you?

Re-framing the Questions

As you can see, the questions are not:

  • What program do I major in?
  • What type of job do I pursue?
  • Am I in the right career?

The question is What am I called to do? Or, better, the question is will I accept God’s calling to believe and then choose serve God and love my neighbor? And then, How? That evolving how can be a guiding policy for your life. Your major, job, and career will then take care of themselves. The tension will then be in trying to integrate the your calling (vocation) and occupation together.

There will be tension between your vocation and occupation. Christians live in two kingdoms: the kingdom of God and the kingdom of humanity. God is forever sovereign but those kingdoms won’t perfectly overlap until Christ returns.

Vocation-Discovering Practices

Elizabeth Newman outlines some spiritual practices to facilitate the discovery of our calling (vocation).

  • Hospitality: “the practice of welcoming another person — even a stranger — into our lives, trains us to be open to surprise.”
  • Meditating on God’s Word: the practice of lectio divina, or “holy reading…enables us to grow in dependence not only on the Bible (and thus the earliest Christians) as a rich resource for forming us, but even more on God.”
  • Spiritual Direction: “the practice of meeting with a spiritual friend who listens to our stories and joins us in discerning how God is working in our lives….trains us, like lectio divina, to resist the idea that we must discern our vocation alone. Rightly understood, Christian vocation is about growing in our ability to be vulnerable, about listening to and with others for the guidance of God’s spirit.”
  • Fasting and Sabbath-keeping: the practice of sabbath-keeping “trains us to participate in the rhythm of work and rest, as we set aside time to rest in God.”
  • Prayer: “the practice of prayer helps us resist the idea, so common in our culture, that waiting is of little use….The rich kind of waiting we practice in prayer trains us to be patient with ourselves, others, and even God” (Newman, ibid).

Patience, prayer, and reflection, so counter-cultural to the culture of occupation, are a critical part of the discerning process.

A Prayer for Discernment

So what do I major in? What type of job do I want? “What am I called to do?”

The answer requires patience. Seeking to hear requires prayer. Goosen and Stevens suggest this prayer by Thomas Merton:

“My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire in all that I am doing. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me and you will never leave me to face my perils alone” (Thomas Merton, as quoted in Entrepreneurial Leadership, p. 125).

Lord, help us listen and may our major, job/career, life, and calling/purpose significantly and holistically overlap so that we may experience the blessing of purity of heart.

 _____________________

Photo credit: https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/251628

This article first appear on LinkedIn.

What Leads to Well-Being?

Being Engaged in a Career

Research from Gallup indicates that people who work according to their strengths are 6.0x more likely to be engaged in a career; and people engaged in a career are 4.6x more likely to experience well-being.

Why Does Being Engaged In A Career Lead To Well-Being?

God created us to work and manage his creation.  Humans flourish when they have the opportunity to be engaged at work.  They are engaged at work when they are empowered to discern, develop, and deploy their gifts and callings.

Our big “C” calling is be holy.   A contributor to becoming holy is using our gifts in ways that glorify God.   A lot can be said here.   But simply stated, we glorify God when we use our talents (Matthew 15:14-30) and walk humbly, love mercy, and seek justice (Micah 6:8).  Our little “c” calling is to do that.

What Leads To Being Engaged In A Career?

Here’s what we know: the odds of being engaged at work are…

  • 2.6x higher if college prepared students well for life outside of college
  • 2.2x higher if students had mentors who encouraged them to pursue their goals and dreams
  • 2.0x higher if at least one professor made them excited about learning
  • 1.9x higher if professors cared about students as people
  • 1.8x higher if students worked on a project that took a semester or more to complete  (Gallup)

In short, God created us to help others discern, develop, and deploy our gifts and calling.

We believe organizations have a responsibility to create those experiences.  This is what we seek to do at Trinity.

 

How Do We Educate Students To Succeed?

Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is the skill needed for all aspects of life.  As M. Scott Peck says, “Life is a series of problems.”  Best to be able to solve them.

Personal Leadership Development

Personal Leadership means being able to manage oneself.  Peter Drucker famously wrote:  “Now most of us, even those of us with modest endowments, will have to learn to manage ourselves.  We will have to learn to develop ourselves.  We will have to place ourselves where we can make the greatest contribution” (Drucker, HBR Leadership Fundamentals, p. 7).

Managing ourselves is a primal skill because at our core we default to being emotional, rationalizing beings.  Today we refer to the skills that manage our primal instincts as emotional intelligence: “The key…to making primal leadership work to everyone’s advantage lies in the leadership competencies of emotional intelligence [EI]: how leaders handle themselves and their relationships” (Goleman, Primal Leadership, p. 6).

For example, if you tracked high IQ people over time, who would rise to the top of organizations and stay there?  You guessed it: emotionally intelligent people.

Vocational and Career Discernment

Like Critical Thinking and Personal Leadership Development, Vocational Discernment is a necessary skill for success.  Vocational Discernment, however, not only defines success differently, it empowers the development of Critical Thinking and Emotional Intelligence skills — more than any extrinsic motivator ever could.  And it is not a gift to be achieved, but received.

Note Vocational Discernment is different that Career Discernment.  Although they could be the same, they don’t usually entirely overlap.   One might say that one’s Vocation transcends and transforms one’s career, much like one’s eulogy virtues might transcend and transform one’s resume virtues (David Brooks).

A Gift To Be Received

Some people find success by learning the rules of the game and using them to get ahead.  Others break all the rules, or at least some of them.  “I believe that God doesn’t want us to be satisfied with just the status quo.  I think in a sense everyone is called to be an entrepreneur in a way. We are all called by God to approach life as an opportunity to use our skills that God has given us to better the world for the glory of God” (Jordan Rose).

Another work for calling is vocation: “True vocation joins self and service, as Frederick Buechner asserts when he defines vocation as ‘the place where your deep gladness meets the world’s deep need’” (Parker Palmer).

Interestingly, David Brooks tells us that we don’t find out calling, it finds us.  That may be true.  As Parker Palmer writes, “Today I understand vocation quite differently — not as a goal to be achieved but as a gift to be received” (Parker Palmer).

In other words, it is a gift to be called to make the world a better place doing that which combines one’s deep gladness and the world’s deep need.  The concept that pulls those concepts together, believe it or not, is Holiness.  Can striving for holiness lead to joy?

Our Vocation Is To Become Holy

We are called to holiness (big “C” calling).  In other words, God intends for us to be perfect.  But perfection is not something we can obtain this side of heaven. However, in accepting it and then seeking it we can experience wisdom and joy!  Joy and wisdom come from radical dependence on God and interdependence on others.  Sounds crazy!

We can strive toward holiness, believe it or not, by accepting we have a calling and seeking to discern, develop, and deploy it (little “c” calling).   Doing so is incredibly empowering and motivates us to become even better at critical thinking and personal leadership.  There is nothing more energizing than doing that which brings us fulfillment and joy.

Discerning, Developing, Deploying

Discerning can occur when we listen to what God speaks in our lives and in our hearts — our holy discontent.

Development can occur when our Adam II transcends Adam I (when our eulogy virtues begin transcending our resume virtues), and our  “fundamental” state of leadership transcends our “normal one” such that it reflects the fruits of the Spirit.   It is no long conforming to the pattern of the world (Romans 12:1,2).

Deployment can occur when we actively pursue God and his will in our work.  This is also the source of wisdom, which is both understanding and practice, “for we do not understand until and unless we live this understanding” (Gordon Smith).

Therefore, if we wish to set students up for success, we need to enhance their critical thinking and personal leadership skills.  But most of all, we need to help them accept and discern, develop, and deploy their gifts and calling.  How do we do that?  In the classroom but also outside of the classroom via experiential learning and mentoring.

What is experiential learning?  Learning that includes:

  • Reflection, critical analysis and synthesis
  • Opportunities for initiative, decision-making, and accountability
  • Holistic learning: learning that engages the head (intellect), heart (emotions), soul (beliefs and values), and hands (physical engagement)

Which learning opportunities bring us joy?  Why?  Which meet the the world’s deep needs?  How?

The Grand Narrative

The Bible describes the meta-narrative of God’s grand work in the history of the world: creation-fall-redemption. These historical themes apply to the entire created universe.

  • “God created all things good. Humans, elephants, trees, rocks, sand, stars—they were all created in a wonderful harmony. This includes [business]. The cultural mandate [found in Genesis 1:28] implies that God built the potential for [business] into the creation. God created humans in His own image, and so the creativity and ingenuity necessary to [engage in business] comes as a gift from God. He also endowed creation with the natural resources necessary for [business]—wood, metal, silicon, electricity, and more.
  • “By man’s choice, represented in the Adam and Eve, sin entered the world. The fall affected every part of creation. Even [business] is stained by sin. The goodness built in from creation is still present, but warped and darkened by sin.
  • “In the third era of history, Christ’s death on the cross and resurrection broke the power of sin and provided redemption to those that have faith. Believers in Christ Jesus have forgiveness of sins through Christ. Christians in the Reformed tradition stress that Christ’s redemptive light shines not only on our own souls, but on all creation. Christ’s rule and His kingdom stretch from shore to shore of the entire universe” (Quentin J. Schultze, Communicating for Life: Christian Stewardship in Community and Media, Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2000, 118–121).

communicating for life

Thus, in whatever role we play we must uncover, practice, expand upon, and celebrate the good and minimize the evil in God’s creation.  Our goal is to be in Christ and be Christ-like in the world.  As Abraham Kuyper famously said:

abraham kuyper

“Oh, no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”James D. Bratt, ed., Abraham Kuyper, A Centennial Reader, p. 488.

In the end God will re-reconcile all of creation to himself.  In the meantime, we are called to be co-workers with him in making the world as he intended it to be.  This work not only blesses others, it makes us more spiritually mature. Holy.  Morally sanctified.

Imagine a world in which each person is empowered to discern, develop, and deploy their gifts and calling for the benefit of others for God’s glory!

It begins with relationships.

Grand words.

The Grand Narrative.

 

Eulogy and Resume Values

We are “Adam I” and “Adam II.”  We straddle the pursuit of our “resume virtues” and our “eulogy virtues.”

See David Brooks’ TEDx video: https://www.ted.com/talks/david_brooks_should_you_live_for_your_resume_or_your_eulogy?language=en

Road to Character

Adam I Vs. Adam II

“Adam I is the career-oriented, ambitious side of our nature.  Adam I is the external, resume Adam.  Adam I wants to build, create, produce, and discover things.  He wants to have high status and win victories.  Adam II want to embody certain moral qualities.  Adam II want to have a serene inner character, a quite but solid sense of right and wrong — not only to do good, but to be good.  Adam II wants to love intimately, to sacrifice self in the service of others, to live in obedience to some transcendent truth, to have a cohesive soul that honors creation and one’s own possibilities.

While Adam I want to conquer the world, Adam II wants to obey a calling to serve the world.  While Adam I is creative and savors his own accomplishments, Adam II sometimes renounces worldly success and status for the sake of some sacred purpose.  While Adam I asks how things work, Adam II ask why things exist, and what ultimately we are here for.  While Adam I want to venture forth, Adam II wants to return to his roots and savor the warmth of a family meal.  While Adam I’s motto is ‘success,’ Adam II experiences life as a moral drama.  His motto is ‘Charity, love, and redemption’” (pp. xi, xii).

“Adam I — the creating, building, and discovering Adam — lives by a straightforward utilitarian logic.  It’s the logic of economics.  Input leads to output.  Effort leads to reward.  Practice makes perfect.  Pursue self-interest.  Maximize your utility.  Impress the world.

Adam II lives by an inverse logic.  It’s a moral logic, not an economic one.  You have to give to receive.  You have to surrender to something outside yourself to gain strength within yourself.  You have to conquer your desire to get what you crave.  Success leads to the greatest failure, which is pride.  Failure leads to the greatest success, which is humility and learning.  In order to fulfill yourself, you have to forget yourself.  In order to find yourself, you have to lose yourself.

To nurture you Adam I career, it makes sense to cultivate your strengths.  To nurture you Adam II moral core, it is necessary to confront your weaknesses” (p. xii).

Modern Life

“We live in a culture that nurtures Adam I, the external Adam, and neglects Adam II.  We live in a society that encourages us to think about how to have a great career but leaves many of us inarticulate about how to cultivate the inner life.  The competition to succeed and win admiration is so fierce that it becomes all-consuming.  The consumer marketplace encourages us to live by a utilitarian calculus, to satisfy our desires and lose sight of the moral stakes involved in everyday decisions.  The noise of fast and shallow communications makes it harder to hear the quieter sounds that emanate from the depths.  We live in a culture that teaches us to promote and advertise ourselves and to master the skills required for success, but that gives little encouragement to humility, sympathy, and honest self-confrontation, which are necessary for building character” (p. xiiii).

“The central fallacy of modern life is the belief that accomplishments of the Adam I realm can produce deep satisfaction.  That’s false.  Adam I’s desires are infinite and always leap out ahead of whatever has just been achieved.  Only Adam II can experience deep satisfaction.  Adam I aims for happiness, but Adam II knows that happiness is insufficient.  The ultimate joys are moral joys” (p. 15).

Vocation vs. Career

“Today, commencement speakers tell graduates to follow their passion, to trust their feelings, to reflect and find their purpose in life.  The assumption…is that when you are figuring out how to lead your life, the most important answers are found deep inside yourself….You should ask certain questions: What is the purpose of my life?  What do I want from life?  What are the things that I truly value, that are not done just to please or impress the people around me?”  By this way of thinking life can be organized like a business plan….But [she who was called] found her purpose in life using a different method….In this method, you don’t ask, What do I want from life?  You ask a different set of questions: What does life want from me?  What are my circumstances calling me to do?  In this scheme of things we don’t create our lives; we are summoned by life.  The important answers are not found inside, the our found outside.  This perspective begins not within the autonomous self, but with the circumstances in which you happen to be embedded.  This perspective begins with an awareness that the world existed long before you and will last long after you, and that in the brief span of your life you have been by fate, by history, by chance, by evolution, or by God into a specific place with specific problems or needs.  Your job is to figure certain things out: What does this environment need in order to be made whole?  What is it that needs repair?  What tasks are lying around waiting to be performed?” (pp. 21, 22).

“Few people are put in circumstances that horrific and extreme [as Viktor Frankl in concentration camps during WWII], but all of us are given gifts, aptitudes, capacities, talents, and traits that we did not strictly earn  And all of us are put in circumstances that call out for action, whether they involve poverty, suffering, the needs of a family, or the opportunity to communicate some message.  These circumstances give us the great chance to justify our gifts” (p. 24).

“A vocation is not a career.  A person choosing  a career look for job opportunities and room for advancement.  A person choosing a career is looking for something that will provide financial and psychological benefits.  If your job or career isn’t working for you, you choose another one.  A person does not choose a vocation.  A vocation is a calling.  People generally feel they have no choice in the matter.  Their life would be unrecognizable unless they pursued this line of activity” (p. 24).

“A person with a vocation is not devoted to civil rights, or curing a disease, or writing a great novel, or running a humane company because it meets some cost-benefit analysis.  Such people submit to their vocations for reasons deeper and higher than utility and they cling to them all the more fiercely the more difficulties arise” (p. 25).

“She [Frances Perkins]…reflected on a distinction that had once seemed unimportant to her.  When a person give a poor man shoes, does he do it for the poor man or for God?  He should do it for God, she decided.  The poor will often be ungrateful, and you will lose heart if you rely on immediate emotional rewards for your work.  But if you do it for God, you will never grow discouraged.  A person with a deep vocation is not dependent on constant positive reinforcement.  The job doesn’t have to pay off every month, or every year.  The person thus called is performing a task because it is intrinsically good, not for what it produces” (p. 44).

“The essential drama in life is the drama to construct character, which is an engraved set of disciplined habits, a settled disposition to do good.  The cultivation of Adam II was seen as a necessary foundation for Adam I to flourish” (p. 53).

Knowledge Vs. Education

“Knowledge is not enough for tranquility and goodness, because it doesn’t contain the motivation to be good.  Only love compels action.  We don’t become better because we acquire new information.  We become better because we acquire better loves.  We don’t become what we know” (p. 211).

Education is a process of love formation.  When you go to school, it should offer you new things to love” (p. 211).

“He [Augustine] started with the belief that he could control his own life.  He had to renounce that, to sink down into a posture of openness and surrender.  Then, after that retreat, he was open enough to receive grace, to feel gratitude and rise upward.  This is life with an advance-retreat-advance shape.  Life, death, and resurrection.  Moving down to dependence to gain immeasurable height” (p. 211).

Road to Character (“The Humility Code”)

  1. “We don’t live for happiness, we live for holiness” (p. 262)
  2. However we have an “innate tendency toward selfishness and overconfidence.” We tend to see ourselves as “the center of the universe” (p. 262).
  3. Even though we are flawed, we are “splendidly endowed.” We do sin, but we “also recognize our capacity for sin” (p. 262).
  4. Humility – having an accurate assessment of our own nature and our place in the cosmos – is our “greatest virtue” (pp. 262, 263).
  5. Thus “pride is the central vice” because “it blinds us into thinking we are better than we are” – our abilities and moral weaknesses (p. 263).
  6. “The struggle again sin and for virtue is the central drama in life” (p. 263).
  7. Character is the result of “inner confrontation.” It is “a set of dispositions, desires, and habits” that are slowly developed through a “thousand small acts of self-control” (pp. 263, 264).
  8. What leads us astray are short term things: “lust, fear, vanity, gluttony.” The dimensions of character, in contrast, are long-term in nature: courage, honesty, humility” (p. 264).
  9. No one can achieve mastery of the virtues alone (p. 264).
  10. “We are all ultimately saved by grace. The struggle against weakness often has a U shape….The shape is advance-retreat-advance” (p. 265).
  11. “Defeating weakness often means quieting the self” (p. 265).
  12. Wisdom begins with knowing our limitations (p. 265).
  13. The good life is not possible “unless it is organized around a vocation….Vocation is found by looking without and asking what life is asking us. What problem is addressed by an activity you intrinsically enjoy?” (p. 266).
  14. “The goal of leadership is to find a just balance between competing values and competing goals” (p.266).
  15. “The person who successfully struggles against weakness and sin may or may not become rich and famous, but that person will become mature….A mature person possesses a settled unity of purpose” (p. 267).

Holy Discontent

holy discontent

By Bill Hybels

Moses

“I’ve come to refer to the powerful, spiritual congruence that connected Moses’ priorities to the priorities of God as his “holy discontent,” and it’s a concept that works in our modern world as well.  Still today, what wrecks the heart of someone who loves God is often the very thing God want to use to fire them up to do something that, under normal circumstances, they would never attempt to do….And it all starts with finding your holy discontent; it begins with you determining what it is that you can’t stand” (p. 25).

Mother Teresa

“For twenty years prior to her work as a world-renowned friend to the friendless, though, the young woman born Agnes Gonzha Bojaxhiu was just an average geography teacher who worked in Calcutta.  This is where her Popeye moment [the point where we ‘cant’s stands it no more”] comes in.  Each morning, she’d make her way to St. Mary’s High School to inspire young minds, but all around the school, conditions were anything but inspiring.  Life on the streets was deplorable!  Her route to work took her right by men and women who were homeless, destitute, and incapacitated by disease.  Every day, something in her spirit would cry out, ‘That’s all I can stand!  I just can’t stand this anymore!’  Ultimately, though, the gut-wrenching poverty that assaulted her senses and wrecked her soul day in and day out thrust her into solution mode” (p. 35).

Paul

“We were all created to do good works [Ephesians 2:10].  I was created to do good works.  Just as confidently, I’m here to tell you that you were created to do good works, which explains how I know that you have a holy discontent banging around in your brain somewhere — if you’re alive and kicking today, then a specific work that that you are expected to do” (p. 51).

“The danger in opting out of the holy discontent pursuit is that in doing so, you also opt out of tackling the good works God has wired you to accomplish.  The goal, friends, is to cultivate your soul’s soil so that this doing-of-good-works process can unfold in your life….There is no greater satisfaction this side of heaven!” (p. 51).

Fundamental State of Leadership

“About the time I was fleshing out my thoughts around the holy discontent concept, I came across a book written by University of Michigan business school professor Robert Quinn.  It contained a theory that really resonated with me — something he called the “fundamental state” theory.  Essentially, it says that when a person is gripped by a powerful passion (or driven by holy discontent, you might say), he or she literally enters into a completely different state of mind; in fact, they shift mental gears altogether and begin operating on an entirely new level” (p. 117).

“According to Quinn, people can actually migrate at will from what he calls the “normal state” to a place known as the “fundamental state.”  This is helpful to know, especially since you may be stuck in the “normal state” without even knowing it.  Here’s how to tell: in the normal state, you’re almost entirely self-absorbed.  You have a reactive approach to life.  And you try to maintain the status quo, regardless how unbearable the status quo is.  Professor Quinn puts it this way in his book, Building the Bridge as You Walk Across It:

‘When we accept the world as it is [by living in the normal state], we deny our ability to see something better, and hence our ability to be something better.  We become what we behold.’  Accepting the world as it is.  Denying our ability to see something better.  Denying our ability to be something better.  This is life in the normal state.  What’s not normal, Professor Quinn says, is embracing the fact that another state exists” (pp. 117, 118).

“What Happens In A Life God Wants To Use And Improve?”

If You Want to Walk on Water..

By John Ortberg

 

READ Matthew 14:25-32.

“There is a consistent pattern in Scripture of what happens in a life that God wants to use and improve:

  • There is always a call….
  • There is always fear….
  • There is always reassurance….
  • There is always a decision….
  • There is always a changed life….

Those who say now are changed to.   They become a little harder, a little more resistant to his calling, a little more likely to say no to the next time.  Whatever the decision, it always changes a life–and it changes the world that that little life touches” (pp. 9, 10).

On Water-Walking

  • Water-walkers recognize God’s presence.  “In each case God had to get people’s attention….In each situation the person that God called felt afraid” (p. 15).
  • Water-walkers distinguish between faith and foolishness.  “This is not a story about risk-taking; it is primarily a story about obedience….This is not a story about extreme sports.  It’s about extreme discipleship” (p. 16).
  • Water-walkers get out of the boat.  “Your boat is whatever represents safety and security to you apart from God himself.  Your boat is whatever you are tempted to put your trust in, especially when life gets a little stormy.  Your boat is whatever keeps you so comfortable that you don’t want to give it up even if it’s keeping you from joining Jesus on the waves.   Your boat is whatever pulls you away from the high adventure of extreme discipleship.  Want to know what your boat is?  Your fear will tell you.  Just ask yourself this:  What is it that most produces fear in me — especially when I think of leaving it behind and stepping out in faith?” (p. 17).
  • Water-walkers expect problems.  [We abandon ourselves to the power of Jesus.  Then it happens.  We experience the wind and we become afraid again] (p. 19).
  • Water-walkers accept fear as the price of growth.  “The choice to follow Jesus–the choice to grow–is the choice for the constant recurrence of fear.  You’ve got to get out of the boat a little every day….fear and growth go together like macaroni and cheese….Karl Barth said that comfort is one of the great siren calls of our age” (p. 21).  “Each time you get out of the boat, you become a little more likely to get out the next time.  It’s not that the fear goes away, but that you get used to living with fear.  You realize that it does not have the power to destroy you.  On the other hand, every time you resist that voice, every time you choose to stay in the boat rather than heed its call, the voice gets a little quieter in you.  Then at last you don’t hear its call at all” (p. 22).t
  • Water-walkers master failure management.  “Failure is not an event, but rather a judgement about an event.  Failure is not something that happens to us or a label we attach to things.  It is a way we think about outcomes” (p. 22).   “The worst failure is never to get out of the boat” (p. 23).
  • Water-walkers see failure as an opportunity to grow.   “Here’s the principle: Failure does not shape you; the way you respond to failure shapes you” (p. 24).
  • Water-walkers learn to wait on the Lord.  “We have to wait on the Lord to receive power to walk on the water.  We have to wait for the Lord to make the storm disappear” (p. 25).
  • Water-walking brings a deeper connection with God.  “I believe that God’s general method for growing a deep, adventuresome faith in us is by asking us to get out of the boat.  More than hearing a great talk, or reading a great book, God uses real-world challenges to develop our ability to trust him” (p. 27).  “The call out of the boat involves crisis, opportunity, often failure, generally fear, sometimes suffering, always the calling to a task that is too big for us.  But there is no other way to grow faith and to partner with God” (p. 27).

On Gifts and Growth

There is not tragedy like the tragedy of the unopened gift” (p. 32).

“There are few things that attract us more than growth.  We were made to grow, and we love to be around growth” (p. 33).

“Consider the sense of fulfillment in the leaders of a company that is expanding, achieving its mission, giving vocational opportunities to men and women who yesterday didn’t have any.  They are watching the miracle of growth….On the other hand, there are few things sadder than stagnation” (p. 34).

“At the end of the day, God will not ask you why you didn’t lead someone else’s life or invest in someone else’s gifts. He will not ask, What did you do with what you didn’t have?  Though, he will ask, What did you do with what you had?

“Fear makes people disobedient to the call of the master” (p. 44).

“It is only in the process of accepting and solving problems that our ability to think creatively is enhanced, our persistence is strengthened, and our self-confidence is deepened.  If someone gives me the answers, I may get a good score on a test, but I will not have grown” (p. 47).

“Growth happens when you seek to exert control where you are able to rather than giving up in difficult circumstances.  It happens when you decide to be wholly faithful in a situation that you do not like and cannot understand.  It happens when you keep walking even though you see the wind.  Then you discover that you are not alone” (p. 104).

“Sin, to paraphrase what psychologist Carl Jung once said about neurosis, is always a substitute for legitimate suffering.  It is an attempt to obtain the pleasure that does not rightfully belong to me or evade the pain that does….Sooner or later, you have to turn and face the pain that makes temptation so attractive.  Sooner or later, you have to run to God” (p. 106).

“As Scott Peck puts it, ‘It is in this whole process of meeting and solving problems that we grow mentally and spiritually….It is for this reason that wise people learn not to dread but actually to welcome problems and actually to welcome the pain of problems'” (p. 111).

“The single command in Scripture that occurs more often than any other — God’s most frequently repeated instruction — is formulated in two words: Fear not…. I think God says ‘fear not’ so often because fear is the number one reason human beings are tempted to avoid doing what God asks them to do.  Fear is the number one reason human being are tempted to avoid getting out of the boat” (pp. 117, 118).

“All research suggests that self-esteem largely boils down to one issue: When you face a difficult situation, do you approach it, take action, and face it head on, or do you avoid it, wimp out, and run and hide?  If you take action, you get a surge of delight, even if things do not turn our perfectly.  I did a hard thing.  I took on a challenge.  You grow.  When you avoid facing up to a threatening situation, even if things end up turning out alright, inside you say, But the truth is, I wimped out.  I didn’t do the hard thing.  I took the easy way out.”  Avoidance kills an inner sense of confidence and esteem (pp. 124, 125).

“[The cave named Failure] is where you find yourself when you thought you were going to do great things, have a great family, or boldly go where no one had gone before, and it becomes clear that things will not work out as you dreamed.  Perhaps you are in the cave because of foolish choices.  Perhaps it is the result of circumstances you could not even control.  Most likely it is a combination of the two….There is only one other thing you need to know. The cave is where God does some of his best work in molding and shaping human lives.  Sometimes, when all the props and crutches in your life get stripped away and you find you have only one God, you discover that God is enough…that God wants his power to flow through your weaknesses” (pp. 138, 139).

On Working

“God is particularly active in working with people” (p. 57).

“You are a piece of work by God!… And because you were made in God’s image, you were also created to do work” (p. 58).

“You have a purpose–a design that is central to God’s dream for the human race….As a crucial part of your calling, you were given certain gifts, talents, longings, and desires” (p. 58).

“A calling is something you discover, not something you choose.  The word vocation comes from the Latin work for voice.  Discovering it involves very careful listening” (p. 60).

“As a rule, the people whom we read about in Scripture who were called by God felt quite inadequate….The first response to a God-sized calling is generally fear (p. 70).

“[People] will experience God’s power–but they will have to take the first step.  This not only involves acknowledgement of God’s power, but requires them to take a step of action based on the assumption that God is trustworthy as well” (p. 79).

Two Laws

  • Law of Cognition: “You are what you think” (p. 161ff).
  • Law of Exposure: “Your mind will think most about what it is most exposed to” (p. 162ff).

 

#TrollNation

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