Tuesday, April 26, 2016

"We Are Summoned by Life"

A vocation is a calling. A vocation is not a career. Choosing a career has to do with advancement, financial and psychological benefits. As a pastor, my sense of call meant that I had little choice in the matter. The work week, the financial benefits, the honors, the headaches – none were at the top of my agenda. My feeling was that the ministry was something God wanted me to do. I could not escape it.

In 1896, Albert Schweitzer read this verse in his Bible, “Whosoever would save his life shall lose it and whosoever shall lose his life for my sake shall save it.”  He knew that he was called to be a medical missionary. He gave up a promising musical career as an organist in order to become a jungle doctor in Africa.

Schweitzer wrote, “Anybody who proposes to do good must not expect people to roll any stones out of his way, and must calmly accept his lot even if they roll a few more onto it. Only force that in the face of obstacles becomes stronger can win.”

Thankfully, millions of people have responded to God’s nudge to pursue a vocation. It is not about the pursuit of happiness. It is not about fulfilling our desires. It is to feel the joy of having one’s values in harmony with one’s behavior. That enables people, even in the toughest days, to banish weariness.

Summary? We don’t create our lives as much as we are summoned by life and God’s grace.


Tuesday, April 19, 2016

"Why am I Here? Do I Matter?"

It was a long time ago that I read Victor Frankl’s 1946 book, “Man’s Search for Meaning”. Powerful!  Frankl was a Jewish psychiatrist in Vienna in 1942. He was rounded up by the Nazis and sent to several concentration camps. His mother, brother, and wife all died in the camps.

Frankl was assigned to lay railroad tracks. Certainly below his education and expectations. He had to decide what kind of person he would be in response to his circumstances. He quickly discerned that he could only control his inner response to his sufferings.  Dehumanization was at the top of the Nazi’s agenda. Some prisoners went along with the degradation and others retreated into themselves and focused on happier memories.

What Frankl realized was that some prisoners beat back dehumanization by small acts of dignity and compassion. He took advantage of his horrible experience in the camps to study people under the worst conditions imaginable! He told his fellow prisoners that God was watching them – a friend, a wife, somebody – who did not want to be disappointed.  In the muddle, the corpses, and the grime, he said, “I called to the Lord from my narrow prison and he answered me in the freedom of space.”

Frankl emphasized that the basic drive that kept people alive was not hunger, sex, power or money, but a will for meaning in life. Why am I here?  Do I matter?

You have aptitudes, gifts, talents and traits that are a given. All of us discover circumstances that cry out for our investment whether hunger, abuse, suffering, grief, inequality or family issues. Are we sensitive enough to understand the assignment our context demands?

The Jewish Mishnah has it, “It’s not your obligation to complete the work, but neither are you free to desist from beginning it.”


Tuesday, April 12, 2016

"The Evidence Is In!"

The evidence is in! Women give to charitable causes more than men at all income levels. Yes, that got my attention. This is amazing given that (while the gap has narrowed) women in general earn less than men and have less money in retirement than men, and yet, have greater life expectancy. The bottom line is that women are giving larger portions of their wealth to charity than ever before. The source on this research is the Women’s Philanthropy Institute at Indiana University.

How come? Women tend to be more altruistic and empathetic than men. Women are more generous than men in order to accomplish social change or help the economically and socially deprived.

Money for men represents power. It can suggest success, recognition and prestige. Women, however, view money in terms of freedom, security and a step towards a goal. This study also noted that women strongly influence household charitable decision making.

What’s the message? Thank God for women! I plan to listen more intently to the women in my life.

We really only possess what we dare to give away otherwise it possesses us. That text in I Timothy 6 haunts me; “There is great gain in godliness combined with contentment; for we brought nothing into the world, so that we can take nothing out of it…. for the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.”

There is a great difference between seeking godliness for gain and seeking godliness.


Tuesday, April 5, 2016

"Color This World"

When coloring as a child, I was always disappointed when I discovered the crayons had lost their point or were broken.  Coloring is still in fashion.  Crayola has a staggering number of choices today for aspiring artists.  Restaurants are notorious for handing out menus for children that have drawings worthy of the four Crayolas they distribute to young patrons.

Recently, in Barnes and Noble, I noticed a push on coloring books for adults.  While visiting with some friends before dinner, a grown-ups coloring book was pulled out along with a variety of colorful pencils and we were all invited to participate in creating a masterpiece.  Yes, everybody got into it and it was fun.

Last year 12-million adult coloring books were sold in this country.  Sales of colored pencils have also shot up.  I guess stressed-out adults appreciate a coloring distraction.  Michael’s has more than 150 adult coloring books for sale.  My guess is that we all need an alternative to staring at screens.
As a Christian, it is my job to add some color to this world.  I am still working on it.