Faithfulness to Your Calling

March 10, 2009

 
I received the meditation below via email this morning from the Henri Nouwen Organization . It’s timely and a good follow-up to my last two posts. Both Nouwen and Mother Teresa lived this truth. I pray I will learn to live it as well.  

Our Unique Call

So many terrible things happen every day that we start wondering whether the few things we do ourselves make any sense.  When people are starving only a few thousand miles away, when wars are raging close to our borders, when countless people in our own cities have no homes to live in, our own activities look futile. Such considerations, however, can paralyse us and depress us.

 Here the word call becomes important.  We are not called to save the world, solve all problems, and help all people.  But we each have our own unique call, in our families, in our work, in our world.  We have to keep asking God to help us see clearly what our call is and to give us the strength to live out that call with trust.  Then we will discover that our faithfulness to a small task is the most healing response to the illnesses of our time.

 


Successfulness vs. Fruitfulness

January 4, 2009

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There is a great difference between successfulness and fruitfulness. Success comes from strength, control, and respectability. A successful person has the energy to create something, to keep control over its development, and to make it available in large quantities. Success brings many rewards and often fame. Fruits, however, come from weakness and vulnerability. And fruits are unique. A child is the fruit conceived in vulnerability, community is the fruit born through shared brokenness, and intimacy is the fruit that grows through touching one another’s wounds. Let’s remind one another that what brings us true joy is not successfulness but fruitfulness.

                                                                                                                                          –Henri Nouwen

 

This Nouwen quote spoke to me today. It’s easy to get caught up in the world’s idea of success. If you’re a results driven person or you have any “over-achiever” tendencies then you can lose sight of what we’re really called to, fruitfulness (Gal. 5:22-23).

I like what Nouwen has to say about “fruitfulness;” it’s the product of weakness and vulnerability. No wonder the world and our flesh are so attracted to successfulness. I mean let’s face it, weakness and vulnerability aren’t exactly qualities you’d want to list on your resume. But God isn’t looking at our resumes. He’s looking at our hearts. He wants to produce fruit in us and through us. And the only way fruit will grow is if the seed falls to the ground, is broken and dies.

Jesus replied, “…I tell you the truth , unless a kernal of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. The man who loves his life will lose it, while the man who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life…(John 12:24-25,)

I’ve been on this faith journey long enough to realize that the best fruit in my life comes from moments of brokenness and vulnerability. The moments when I’m unsuccessful, weak and I finally acknowledge that it’s God who is really in control. Those are the moments when I “lose” my life and often it’s painful. But they’re also the moments when God’s love, grace, mercy and humility seem to flow through me to others. 

Not surprisingly, the people who’ve most influenced my faith journey are not the “successful” ones but instead those who were willing to share their own weakness and vulnerability. One of the reasons I’ve spent 10 years serving on those bi-annual ecumencial retreats is because of the vulnerability and transparency shown by the women who give the talks. They share openly about how the grace of God has come into their sometimes very messy lives and transformed them. The fruit that comes from such transparency is beautiful. It gives others the freedom to admit their own weaknesses and humble themselves before God. And just as Nouwen’s quote states, we experience intimacy when we touch one another’s wounds and a community is born through our shared brokenness. It’s the power of God working through weakness (2 Cor. 12:9).

Despite this knowledge and experience I must confess that my flesh still rebels. It’s the “falling to the ground” and “dying” part that my flesh hates. Like many, I want to look (and feel) like I have my act together, like I’m successful. But the truth is I don’t and I’m not. Even though my flesh rebels, my spirit rejoices in the fruit that comes when I finally abandon my will and follow His.

Instead of a successful new year I think I need to pray for a fruitful new year; a year of falling to my knees and dying to myself. Not exactly a glamorous new year’s wish. I doubt Hallmark is going to ask me to write any of their Happy New Year cards. But, I know it’s what I need. Maybe it’s what you need too.

Here’s to a fruitful new year!


Doing Life Differently

January 2, 2009

Michelle, one of the moms in my homeschool support group, has battled cancer for a while. I don’t know her well. We’ve only met a couple of times. However, her close friends in the group kept us informed of her health so we could pray for her. She came close to death in 2007 but was cancer free for the last year. Then one day last week she was taken to the hospital where they discovered she had a brain tumor. She died on December 31, 2008.  Michelle left behind a daughter. I can only imagine how much she misses her mom this morning.

Nothing like death to stop and make you think. Especially when you’re thinking about making resolutions for the new year.  It puts into perspective what matters most. I find myself thinking: What if 2009 were my last year here on earth? What if today, January 2, 2009 were the last January 2nd I would ever see. How would I live this day differently?

Now I’ve been asked that thought-provoking question before, you know the one that says,  if you had only two months to live how would you spend your time? In my mind I’ve formulated what those 60 days would like like. My plans for those 60 days reveal much about my true ideals and priorities in life.  

The reality though, is that  I don’t know when I will die. I could be here for another week or another 50 years. I can’t drop everything and live like I only have 60 days left on this planet.  There is laundry to be done (I wouldn’t do laundry during my last 60 days on earth :-). My kids need to be taught. There are meals to prepare and many other chores that I can’t avoid for the rest of my life. Still, questions like that are good because they make you think. Michelle’s death makes me think too. It makes me think about how I will do life in 2009.

In the coming year…

  • I will think twice about about the petty little things  I let bother me — letting go of those worries and concerns that are not “eternal.”
  • I will make an effort to renew and restore some relationships this year.
  • To paraphrase Henri Nouwen: Instead of seeing all of life’s interruptions as interruptions and getting annoyed by them, I will see life’s interruptions as life — living them and loving others through them.
  • I will avoid “future tripping” –that is, worrying about the future so much that I’m not living in the present.
  • Finally, I will complain less and rejoice more, even in the the difficult moments,  especially in difficult moments.

These a just a few of the thoughts in my head. I know they’re a bit broad but the Holy Spirit will help me work out the details.

So, how do you want to do life differently in 2009?


Having it all…

May 8, 2008

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 It’s been a busy week, not much time to write.

 

My mom had hip replacement surgery this week, a friend really needed some time for herself away from “mommyhood,” Scott has had a busy week at the office and is traveling today and I’m trying hard to catch up on a month’s worth of homeschooling. I’m grateful at times like these that I’m able to be home and available to my family and friends. Of course, the flipside of that coin are the moments when I look at Scott and say, “Hey, I’ll go into the office today and YOU can stay home.” Of course I know nothing about the mortgage industry so that would be a disaster in and of itself. That fact aside, there’s never really a perfect scenario. It’s the grass is always greener syndrome. I know that it wouldn’t take long before I’d call him from the office and ask him to switch places once again.

 

I know some stay-at-home moms and even some dads who don’t miss their careers at all. I know others who long to get back to work. I know mom’s who work who would give anything to be at home with their kids. And then there are those like me: I loved what I did and I love what I do now, which means some kind of sacrifice has to be made as well. I think that’s the case for a lot of us.  For those who believe we can have it all (men and women alike, working or at home) I say prove it. I’ve yet to see a life without sacrifice. And, what one chooses to sacrifice is a very personal decision. In many cases there’s no decision to be made; some must sacrifice simply to survive and provide. 

 

One of my dearest friends, Tina, once said to me, “It’s the fact that you’re sacrificing something else that you want that makes what you’re doing right now meaningful.”  There’s real wisdom in those words. As well as pain and loss.

 

Sacrifice is at the heart of Christ’s life and our journey with Him isn’t it? It was His sacrifice that gave His incarnation and his death meaning. He sacrificed the glory of heaven to come to earth and He sacrificed His very life so that we could one day experience the glory of heaven. If it hadn’t required sacrifice it wouldn’t have meant anything. Likewise, our lives take on meaning when we learn what it is to sacrifice; when we learn what it means to die to self and really love of others.  That’s when we really can have it all.  All, that is, of what really matters in this life and the life to come.

 

 

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Note: A friend of mine recently posted on sacrifice and purpose. It’s a good read, especially if you like sports analogies 🙂