Has Jesus Called You?

Hesitating, I stood to my feet. I heard the question asked, similar to one that would always come on these weekends but the way this was worded, well, I had to stand. In a room of several hundred of my peers, I wondered why everyone wasn’t on their feet. The man had asked: ‘If Jesus called us to serve him, would we? If he called us to be a minister of his gospel (my church has always ordained women) would we answer His call?

So why wasn’t the whole room standing? Was this a trick question? Did I fall for it? These annual youth weekends typically ended with a public call to serve. Those already accepted to seminary would be marched to the front of the room to stand on risers and then the question would be asked of others who felt God’s call.

Come now. Come and join the ones in the front of the room.

But this wasn’t the final meeting. It wasn’t that call to serve, it was just a question of if he, would we. Not many stood that night but apparently more heard the call by the time the parade to the front of the room came in the closing meeting.

*******

I believe Phylis was called to teach. I saw her with her students,  with their parents, with our children. She noticed the ones who held back and knew how to draw them out. She recognized the lazy, but smart ones, who needed to be challenged. She understood teaching was more than   content of text books. I don’t believe Phylis would have felt fulfillment from any other type of job or career. She was called to teach.

Barbara was called to non-profit work. She didn’t start out that way, but after her first taste at working for a non-profit organization, she never looked back. I wonder if she sees the calling in it? Does she understand this is the work God has called her to do?

Churches talk a lot about being called: Are you called? Has Jesus called you?

What they’re asking is, are you called to ministry; to be a pastor or missionary or youth leader. Is Jesus calling you to serve with the visitation committee or in the nursery?

It sounds as if there is no calling outside the church walls.

“We are not primarily called to do something or go somewhere; we are called to Someone. We are not called to special work but to God. The key to answering the call is to be devoted to no one and to nothing above God himself.” Os Guinness

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Israel

called to ministry

Called to ministry

I posed the question on Facebook: “Have you felt a sense of calling in what you do?” Usually when I ask serious questions, crickets. This time, folks had a lot to say about their calling.

“Is there a difference between God “calling” you and God “guiding” or “directing” you? I think all of them get you the same place if you listen and obey. I think “calling” might be a direct voice, like Samuel in the Bible. I think He uses different methods on different people.”

“I think “calling” and “guiding” are definitely interrelated. And I agree that calling is not limited to ministry. I come from a faith tradition of people receiving a calling or direct guidance toward a specific path in all areas of our lives. At this point in my life I believe that the gifts we’re each created with are part of how God places a calling in our heart, and part of how we become who we were created to be is by fully engaging in and nurturing those gifts. This entire season of my life as I’ve transitioned from ministry and business career into writing and other opportunities still to be identified has been full of the very questions you’re asking about calling”

“Since getting sober almost 5 years ago…. I struggled with that for awhile actually , “what does God want me to do now?? How can I give back at all using the talents He gave me?” ….. after “getting fixed”, I looked at my business in a different, focused way. I started donating more of my time and talents to work with the awesome Icing Smiles Canada , and “church” related functions to donate and help folks in the form of cake/sugar art…..and now I TEACH!! (Doesnt sound that special but to those that truly know me, as Im sure youve seen it here and there when we were together, my social anxiety issues would totally freeze me to NOT do anything like that, ever). These days I work hard everyday to keep my anxieties at bay with prayer and the fact I know that Satan has those anxiety “traps” set for me, I can now recognize them as hurdles he puts in my way to stop me from sharing my God given talents, and it is much easier to overcome…..I will NOT be frozen by evil anymore!! It makes me push harder to do things that my Lord shows me and wants me to pass on!”

This is just the start of the conversation, a conversation I hope you’ll be part of.

Answers often create more questions so I’ll leave you with these:

What is a calling? Is everyone called?
Is there only one calling?
Does your calling change?
Are you called to a ‘greater’ work?
Is there a high calling? The ‘highest’ calling?
Does the quote by Os Guinness change anything? Or everything?
I do hope you’ll get involved in the conversation by leaving a comment. What is your experience with calling?
This is the first of a 4-part series, with each part telling more of our story. Click the links to read the other parts in this series: two, three, four.

Five-Minute Friday: ALIVE

Her dark chocolate eyes look up at me. They are alive with a glint of innocent mischief. “You be the monster.” her 8-year old self says and off she runs.

She squeals and darts across the playground equipment, easily moving through openings not made for my grown self but I oblige her playful spirit, knowing it awakens a part of me I let go dormant for too long.

She is running from imagined evil and I pray she never finds the real kind that threatens to steal her hope and promise. We know too much of evil these days. Too much of death and disease and hate and unspeakable horrors.

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Christabel on playground

We will all come to know death, either literal or figurative. Perhaps the figurative kind is the most insidious. It lurks in depression and grief, in pain and denied addiction. It masquerades itself well with a public face but left unchecked, it will be the monster that wins.

Today is Good Friday. That oddly named day commemorating the day Jesus was crucified. His physical body endured extreme pain as swords pierced his sides and his back was lashed to shreds from flogging. A wreath of thorns was made and place on his head: a makeshift crown.

This physical death he suffered so he could live again. So we can live again. So we can made alive in Him. Everyday. He is our hope, our promise of a new day, a new life. He restores our childlike wonder.

He was sheer weakness and humiliation when he was killed on the cross, but oh, he’s alive now—in the mighty power of God! We weren’t much to look at, either, when we were humiliated among you, but when we deal with you this next time, we’ll be alive in Christ, strengthened by God.   2 Corinthians 13:4 the Message

Linking up with my favorite group of free-writers called Five-Minute Friday. Join us at Kate’s where all the fun begins.

Obedience or Sacrifice? (hint: sacrifice is the easier one)

“To obey is better than sacrifice, I want more than Sundays and Wednesday nights….”

Those lyrics by Keith Green come back to me like a haunting. I haven’t given up anything for Lent in a few years and obedience? Does consistency count?

I think Lament is a better theme for this season than Lent.

As I understand it, the meaning of Lent is clear: sacrifice. Give up something. Not just anything, but something you like. Something you really don’t want to give up but you will. For Jesus. Not forever, of course, just 40 days, not including Sundays, for some.

I get rather lost in the weeks and it takes intention to focus on this specific season. I choose to do it through looking at Jesus’ ministry, recalling his encounters with people and considering how even touching the edge of his clothes can be life-changing. Mark 5:24-34

They are familiar stories to me, ones I don’t get tired of hearing, like favorite songs on a playlist.

There are a lot of miracles in the stories, dead people brought back to life, long-time illnesses healed in an instant. And the made-for-the-movies exorcism of a demon possessed guy. I can’t begin to imagine what George Lucas could do with that!

I’m particularly drawn to the people Jesus took time with and that they were mentioned specifically. He ate at the house of  a man who was a crooked businessman.  He spoke with women, in public. He defended an adulteress. The men he called to follow him, the disciples, were mostly common folk. One was a tax collector, several fishermen and others no profession was mentioned. They hadn’t lead extraordinary lives. They were, I think, a lot like me.

These stories seem crammed into the Gospels, the first four books of the New Testament. Some chapters contain several miracles and it would seem Jesus is well on his way to being accepted as the Messiah. The one the Jews had been promised and looking for.

But I digress……

This isn’t about the stories. They are what connects me to a life lived thousands of years ago. This started about obedience and sacrifice. About the giving up of the Lenten season. This focus of doing without, because Jesus life was a sacrifice. I get the metaphor and the way we can participate.

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Garden of Gethseme

sacrificeIt’s just that, this seems an easy way out. Not that sacrifice is easy. Don’t misunderstand me. But those words from that song so long ago…the ones about obedience, they call out my sinfulness. They call out my show of sacrifice.

In the Old Testament, God had chosen Saul to be King and given him a command. He didn’t follow it exactly. Instead of killing all of the livestock, he had his army only kill what was no good. The rest they kept. When questioned about this by Samuel, Saul said they kept it to sacrifice to God. Ah, the excuses I know so well.

But Samuel replied,
“What is more pleasing to the Lord:
your burnt offerings and sacrifices
or your obedience to his voice?
Listen! Obedience is better than sacrifice, (emphasis mine)
and submission is better than offering the fat of rams. 1 Samuel 15:22 NLT

It’s not about either or, sacrifice or obedience. It’s about me letting a sacrifice substitute for the more important act of obedience.

That’s the personal meaning Lent holds for me. It shines a light on my stubborn will I take back again and again. When I don’t hold my tongue when I should. When arrogance rules instead of humility. When anger oozes out of my pours (again, arrogance). When I manipulate to get my way.

When I fully recognize my inability to be or do what I know I should. And after the wrestling of guilt and shame, I know He still loves me. And that Jesus will do for me, what I can’t do for myself.

Why I’m Glad Our Church Didn’t Celebrate Lent

I’m glad our church didn’t celebrate Lent when I was growing up. It’s terribly depressing. There’s a lot of talk about sacrifice and death and in between the miracles Jesus was performing there was plotting against him. Even Jesus, this man of peace,  spoke some harsh words to people. When Jesus asked a man to follow him, the man said he had to go bury his father first. (Luke 9:59-60) Sounds reasonable enough but Jesus told him to let the dead bury the dead and (read out of context) that’s just crazy talk.

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prayer labyrinth

Lent is a sad season. There is a veil of sorrow that seems to cover it all. The focus on sin is a bit much, too. Or maybe it’s me because my heart is heavy with guilt and shame. I’m focused on behavior which seems to be how the Christian culture measures salvation.

It’s a jumbled pot of stew laced with arsenic and I lap it up, one slurp at a time because it’s what I’ve been fed for years. I’ve added ingredients that only add to its poison. I’ve come to accept its bitter taste.

I’m reaching to grab hold of the pain of Lent because I know this is the value of understanding sacrifice. This season isn’t about me, my sin, my sacrifice, my guilt. It is, but it’s more.

Yes, I’m a sinner and yes, guilt weighs heavy and I’m always trying to rid myself of shame because it’s the poison in everything. But to only focus on that, I’m missing the ultimate sacrifice made by one who is rightly called Savior.

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When I was 15 I bought a crucifix necklace in a shop on the boardwalk of Ocean City, Maryland. I thought it was cool. We didn’t wear crucifixes in my church. They seemed reserved for Catholics but I believed Jesus died on the cross too so I bought it and wore it. Mama simply said, in her non-judgy tone, “We believe Jesus isn’t on the cross anymore.” Point taken.

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We believe he lives today! That belief makes Good Friday bearable for me. Knowing that Jesus came to take my sin as his makes Lent more of an effort for me, but a worthy one as the cross brings to mind his suffering and ultimate sacrifice.

These words, written by Charles Wesley in 1738 say it best:

And can it be that I should gain an interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

I hear the melody of this hymn in my head, singing it to myself with its swelling crescendo on the words, Amazing love! …our voices grow louder but my heart quiets as we sing, “how can it be, that thou my God, shouldest die for me?”

This is Lent, the season of walking through the shadows of death to the resurrected Savior.

Simple Questions Only

Sally cat

Phylis wouldn’t stop at one question. There would be follow up after follow up, her interest in people was astounding. I don’t remember her specific questions but I know she knows all about my life and I know a lot about hers.

We met when she was our children’s fifth grade teacher. Curiosity and teaching are the perfect blend. How does one teach without first asking questions?

Our friendship developed and has continued over years and moves, through life changes and grief, both hers and mine. We never stopped asking each other the simple questions about life.

I’m not a dreamer, you see. It’s far too impractical and risky. Dreaming isn’t safe. Dreaming follows curiosity so I’ve never fancied myself a curious person either. Only curious in the way a mama wants to know why her four-year-old son suddenly got quiet. Or why she hasn’t heard his teenaged self come home yet. Some might be so bold as to call that nosy. I call it good parenting.

There’s the curious and the nosy with me falling in the latter category. Who, what, where and why are what I want to know. The answers to those aren’t always what I want to hear but fear doesn’t make me shy away from asking.

Don’t fret, the story continues over at Cara Meredith’s where I’m guest posting today. Won’t you hop over and join me at Cara’s?

Children change things

It was during my first pregnancy that mama told me. On one of our monthly long distance phone calls toward the end of my pregnancy mama said, “Your dad and I never argued until we had kids.” There wasn’t much else she needed to say. I understood. Of course, we would be different.

Children change things.

All the books and doctors and mama words are just that: words. You listen kindly, you laugh at the right spots and raise your eyebrows in concern when they talk of sleepless nights and toss it all aside for happier thoughts of rocking your contented little one.

A few years later and you’ve collected your own stories of sleepless nights, during and after pregnancy. You give the first time mom-to-be a knowing smile as mentally you pat her head and think, “Oh child, you have no idea and wouldn’t believe me if I told you.” Because yes, children change everything.

One child changed our lives from impulsive movie going to planned nights out and schedules for just about everything.

Our children changed what I thought about education, specifically theirs. It changed the food we ate and when we ate. Our mornings and evenings were changed by their sleep schedules. Holidays were brought more into focus as we planned ahead for where and who we’d spend them with.

The biggest change children brought about was internal. The love that swells inside at their first solo in the school Christmas pageant or their first track meet. The flutters you get with them when they get their drivers license or  looking at colleges several hours away.

Children Change Things

We are celebrating the birth of a baby who changed his parents life like our children changed ours. But this baby, this baby changed the world. His birth sent a schism in the political scene and among the religious right. Before he cut his teeth rulers were fearful of this rumored newborn King. Fearful they would be overthrown.

This baby grew and as he did he changed the lives of common men and outcast women. He kept company with cheaters and thieves. He ignored the Jewish law in favor of grace and compassion.

Two thousand plus years later this child become man is still changing the hearts of men and women. His ways seem contrary to many of the religious folk and he continues to favor the poor and rejected over the pretty and popular. His kingdom is an upside down one with the first coming last and the least being favored.

Then and now, this child changes things. Have you allowed him to change you?

Truly He taught us to love one another,
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains he shall break, for the slave is our brother.
And in his name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
With all our hearts we praise His holy name.
Christ is the Lord! Then ever, ever praise we,
His power and glory ever more proclaim!
His power and glory ever more proclaim!

O Holy Night

Linking up at Holley Gerth’s with Coffee For Your Heart

Out of Sorts

Moving around as much as my family did wasn’t my choice. Kids are along for the ride as parents decide such things, at least in my time it was that way. It can take some time to figure out the benefits of packing up and leaving Florida to Utah, especially when it’s in the December. Six months later you move back to Florida but the right coast this time and then to Texas and so on throughout my growing-up years.

You learn the vernacular of Baltimore does not include y’all but leans more to ‘youse’ and in Utah they it’s not skipping class but sloughing.

Granny would sometimes use the word puny when she wasn’t feeling ‘up to snuff’ and sometimes, ‘out of sorts’ is the perfect description to feeling a bit ‘off’.

In Sarah Bessey’s latest book, Out of Sorts: Making Peace With an Evolving Faith,  the title reveals her out of sort-ness isn’t a physical one but spiritual.

I’ve read Sarah’s blog for a few years, finding her writing style relatable even though she’s younger than my daughter and her life in Canada speaks of more differences in our lifestyle. Her words aren’t written for a select group but she opens her heart to write the words she has carefully considered and wrestled with in prayer and contemplation.

Sarah is a seeker. A believer. A self-described happy-clappy charismatic drawn to following Christ rather than a denomination. This book is about that journey.

She is brave recounting the time she pulled away from church at the same time her husband was the Youth Pastor. I smile thinking how that would play out in our denomination; a pastor who’s spouse wanted nothing to do with church.

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“Whether it’s in our relationship with God or with our own families, at some point we find that it is time to sort. It’s time to figure out what we need to keep, what we need to toss,

and what we need to reclaim.”

Out of Sorts: Making Peace With an Evolving Faith.

Even in her time of being ‘out of sorts‘ with church, Sarah doesn’t bash the institution or its people. Rather, she searches deeper for where it is God calls her in the midst her uncertainty.

“I will always pray as if this one thing is true: God is for us. And it’s worthwhile to keep knocking. That’s all I know about faith for sure.”

For the sake of full disclosure, I received an advance copy of this book which releases Tuesday, November 3, as part of the launch team. I agreed to give only my honest opinion about the book.

As I read page after page, I found myself in her words, feeling that ‘not quite there’ feeling about some of the words we say or how we look at this or that. I’ve looked at the limitation rather than the freedom and through her story I see a bit of my reflection. I find myself saying, “me too” chapter after chapter.

Sarah put words to my feelings and assured me, it’s going to be okay. Nothing has been lost, only revealed, reclaimed, and found anew.

Day 15 – Ordinary beauty of signs

Have you ridden in a car without air-conditioning? Or driven a stick-shift?

I expect the latter more than the first unless you live in Alaska or the Great Northwest.

When I was dating Henry, his car didn’t have air because he bought it in North Carolina and compared to south Florida, well, I guess things were different then. It was also the last car we owned with vinyl seats and no a/c as husband and wife. Just sayin’ 😉

Those were the cars of my childhood and road trips were traveled on stretches of highways lined with billboards and cows and crops. Without technology to entertain my brother and me, daddy relied on  alphabet and counting games.

The alphabet game was played by first choosing which side of the road would be yours. Then you collected letters, in order, from the billboards on your side of the road. First one to complete the alphabet won.

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pumpkin patch sign

road side stand framed

rafting

Two Georges sign

I doubt that had anything to do with my affinity for signs. The older and simpler the better.

I have photos of hand lettered poster board signs on road side stands, painted advertisements on the sides of buildings, a ragged piece of wood with faded letters. We saw a simple piece of 2×4 painted white with JESUS SAVES in red letters nailed to a tree on a very winding stretch of road in the mountains of North Carolina. Some signs are gone before I can grab the camera.

There is something about the order of text that appeals to my visual appetite. More, perhaps, are the words that call to action, to do something: Stop. Look. Watch. Taste. Or the words of proclamation and announcement like: JESUS SAVES

These are messages stated clearly, simply, speaking to the audience at large not knowing if or who will respond.

Is this not the way Jesus calls to us? Clearly? “Come to me”

Simply? “I will give you rest.”

His words, offered in a variety of translations to make clear to all. His words, offered in red letters to single them out. His words a sign, a call to action.

His words calling and giving woven together, his words written in red on a rugged piece of wood, now written on my heart.

Here is some fun news for YOU!

DaySpring

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An introduction

#write31days

It was my husbands good looks that first turned my head. On the volleyball court at camp and a couple of years later as I drove by the church offices where he was mowing the lawn.

We’ve both changed a lot in the years we’ve been together. As it says in the bible, “beauty fades like the wildflowers in the field” (Isaiah 40:6b) and we’ve changed inside and out.

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birthday party weekend

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playing hands

time with Christabel 803

I like pretty things. But there is a more ordinary beauty I overlook: my grandmother’s tattered bible or the granddaughter with a pile of colored chalk drawing her masterpiece on the porch. This is the beauty that surrounds us but gets pushed aside by the headlines of the day. This is the beauty that requires intention on our part.

I’m participating in write31days this month and I’ve chosen Ordinary Beauty as the topic. I want to notice what I’ve stopped seeing because it’s always there. I want to slow down to see what I rush past. I want to listen for beauty and capture all its forms. I want to share that beauty with you because we all could use a little more pretty in our day.

What’s your ordinary beauty today?

Let Your work of love be on display for all Your servants;

    let Your children see Your majesty. And then

let the beauty and grace of the Lord—our God—rest upon us

    and bring success to all we do; yes, bring success to all we do!

Psalm 90:16-17 the Voice

The prayers of strangers

It wasn’t the typical Sunday morning but I’m not quite sure what typical means some days. My sister was visiting and going with us to chapel service, her first in the recovery community.  Hudson was leaving town immediately following the service and before I walked out of our house I had a message from a friend in another town asking our men to pray for JW.

As I set up the computer for the media another message flashed across my screen: please pray for JR’s wife and then the needs of another not asking for prayer but I knew it was needed.

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prayer

Every week there are those sitting in silence, doubting prayer, wondering why theirs wasn’t answered or if they should even ask for prayer. We’ve all trivialized our problems because those of another sounds greater. We’ve sulked because we’re still waiting for the last 10 prayers to be answered and now we aren’t even sure we believe.

It stays in my mind, this woman of the faith who has never met one of the men she has asked to pray. She knows of their brokeness, of the reasons they’ve had to put humility aside and walk through our doors. She’s heard me tell the stories and these are the ones she wants to pray, for one they don’t know either.

My faith is shallow and impatient. It doesn’t wait long and its doubt comes quick. My faith reaches to people I know, I’ve seen their lives and heard their hearts and maybe, maybe, I’ll whisper my need to them.

I know these men and I know God and I know the broken are just the ones God uses to crash my arrogance and pride. I know he hears the hearts of those whose hearts beat for Him and nothing beats louder than a heart needing to be made new.

We prayed for the known and the unknown. Some are praying still. I don’t understand the mystery of prayer. I’m not too good at it, at least the way it seems it should be done. I hope I’m wrong about that. I hope I’m wrong that it needs to be always done on my knees in a quiet room with no distractions and no less than 10 minutes, preferably 15 minutes. Doesn’t that sound right?

You thank and praise, which seem the same to me but I heard someone say they’re different and you should include both in your prayers.

You admit and request and you wrap it all in gratitude and that I know it right because how can I not be grateful to the One who somehow holds it all.

Mostly I pray in spurts. In the moment as it comes to me like seeing a request on Facebook and sometimes I touch the screen and say a prayer. I know I’ll forget if I don’t say it just then.

I pray with my eyes open a lot because I’m driving or at my desk or someone comes to mind while I’m cooking. It always too little  but God isn’t the one measuring prayers by word count or eyes closed.

I don’t know why she asked a group of strangers, men with addiction problems, to pray for her friend. I do know God has heard their prayers. I know her faith in God is why she asked and not her faith in people. I know her faith has helped strengthen mine.