About Pink Shoes Ministries

Brita Hammit is an educator with a God-given passion for retreat & women’s ministry. She is the author of “Conversations With Our Creative God,” a retreat curriculum and workbook designed to lead women into interactive and intimate relationship with the God who created them. Brita serves as Director of Faith Formation in her worshiping community, where she teaches weekly (women’s small groups and family Bible studies) and champions intergenerational prayer initiatives. Brita's greatest joy is in creating opportunities for people to experience the power and presence of God in practical and deeply personal ways. Brita makes her home with husband Dallas (of 26 years), daughter Britton and son Joffrey, who see to it that her life is full of activity and opportunities to be led by the Spirit of God.

Evacuation Revelation

IMG_2237You’ve probably played this game before – the icebreaker that poses the scenario: Your house is on fire, and you can take only five things with you. What do you choose?

Designed to get at what you value most, this conversation-starter poses a theoretical question that can result in some pretty interesting insights about people and their stuff. You haven’t truly played the game, however, until there’s ash falling like snow in your yard and a phone call confirms you are next in the queue for mandatory evacuation.

We had been breathing smoke for days as the hills behind our home were consumed by fire. A shift of the wind overnight brought the flames close enough to warrant the decision to put our neighborhood on pre-evacuation notice. I listened to the voice on the automated call tell me that we weren’t in immediate danger, but we should be ready to go, just in case.

Ready to go? I looked around my 2,000 square foot home and at the three cars in the driveway, knowing that I had an indeterminate amount of time to decide which of our possessions should be staged in the “go” pile, and of those deserving items, which would actually fit in the cars. Home alone, I nervously started the room-by-room trek through all of my family’s worldly possessions, evaluating their importance and considering their size. As items were deemed worthy, they were moved to the living room where they could be loaded up quickly when evacuation orders came.

Here’s where the revelation comes in. A couple of them, actually.

My first attempt to identify worthy items was literally all about me. What do I need? Like? Love? What could I not live without? What will I regret not having if I leave it behind? It wasn’t until I stepped into my son’s bedroom that I was hit with conviction about answering these questions for all of my absent family members, which meant I had to retrace my steps with an entirely different set of questions in mind.

Most of what ended up being chosen didn’t surprise me: Financial paperwork, family documents, clothing for a couple of days. Computers made the cut, as did several tubs of pre-digital family photos and my son’s guitars. What did surprise me was that, after checking my list twice, all of these necessities fit easily into three modest cars. There was room to spare! So much so, that I made another pass through the house actually looking for more things to rescue, but I just couldn’t find much more to add.

Seeing all of our items-worth-saving in a pile on the floor made me realize how little there actually is in this world that we cannot live without. I took pictures of several large paintings that wouldn’t fit in the cars, and I photographed the wall in my living room that is covered in crosses, each given to me by special family and friends.

Then I sat, taking mental stock of the many, many possessions I had no need to save. For insurance purposes, I did one more lap around the house, videotaping what would be left behind before my son came home and helped me load up the cars.

Evacuation orders never came, thanks to more than 1,000 firefighters working day and night to control the blaze. Even so, I don’t regret being forced into the living of this scenario, which has gracefully exposed some selfish tendencies and revealed that what we really need in order to thrive isn’t more stuff, but the carefully chosen, thoughtfully cultivated right stuff.

 

 

Want What You’ve Got! (the end)

Rose from ashesI sit at the kitchen table, slowly addressing the huge stack of graduation announcements for my son. My youngest, who ten minutes ago still needed me to lay down beside him at bedtime so that he could fall asleep. I look at the young man in the photos as I stuff cards into envelopes, and I’m genuinely mystified as to where the time has gone. This parenting adventure, though overrated at times, has been more sweet than bitter and I’m suddenly aware of just how difficult it’s going to be to let go. I can’t believe we’re down to the last month of high school – and childhood’s end.

Sitting across from her, I can’t help but see the toll this cancer has taken. It’s a short visit, but it feels infinitely more important than any face-time we’ve ever had before. We sing, we pray, we talk, we laugh, and all the while I’m crying tears on the inside, fully aware of how surreal these moments are. And how holy this space is. And how ill-prepared we are for life to end.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord? I wasn’t either, but today it isn’t a stretch for me to imagine how Jesus’ family of followers felt as the horrific events of “good” Friday played out. No one wants what they’ve got when something beautiful is ending, whether that thing is childhood, a relationship, a job, or the life of someone they love. But Jesus taught that endings are a prelude to new beginnings:

“It is a fact that a grain of wheat must fall to the ground and die before it can grow and produce much more wheat. If it never dies, it will never be more than a single seed. Whoever loves the life they have now will lose it. But whoever is willing to give up their life in this world will keep it. They will have eternal life.” John 12:23-25 (ERV)

Kids grow up and become adults, and the baby I once held will one day nurture life in others, too. People die. Sisters and mothers and daughters – and even the Savior of the world – reach the end of their days, and their lives are planted like seed so that the rest of us can grow to be better, stronger, kinder, wiser people. We may not see the bloom on this side, but I am convinced that the garden that awaits us is a resurrection garden, full of life and color and fruit and energy that this broken world of ours could never sustain.

When you don’t want the endings you’ve got, you are in good company  – even Jesus asked for a Plan B. But just as Jesus’ life did not end with His death, but ushered in the Kingdom of God, so your endings will be the start of something God-ordained and new.

It’s hard to see it now, I know, but seed takes time to grow. Give it time – and Want What You’ve Got while you wait.

Daily Questions: What are the endings you are facing today? Some endings feel good! What do you look forward to in this next, new season? Some endings are brutal. What do you dread most as you face this loss/change/transition? Maybe you’ve been holding onto a “seed” that, if planted, might bring life and joy and health and good stuff to others! Think about what needs to die in your life so that God’s resurrection garden can grow.

Want What You’ve Got! (maintenance)

Dental flossApparently, I have a tiny mouth.

(Those of you who beg to differ, see yesterday’s post: Shhh!)

From my strategic position in the dental recliner, I complied with every request to open wider, turn my head this way, close my mouth around the suction hose thingy, stick out my tongue… All in the name of maintenance.

We all know that dental maintenance pays, right? I have a friend who is a dental assistant and I’ve heard stories, man. Stories of what can happen when we take our dental health for granted.

Kids, floss every day. Seriously. It’s worth it all when you take your place in The Chair.

Today I was told that my gum health is good – no bleeding. Hooray!

No X-rays on this visit, but apparently no trouble spots, either. I was in and out of the hot seat in less than 25 minutes, sporting some pearly white chompers and a shiny new toothbrush to boot.

The things we possess require maintenance. Teeth, hair, hearts, bodies… Feet.

Today is what many in church-world refer to as Maundy Thursday. On this day during what we call Holy Week (the week before Jesus’ resurrection), Jesus shared one last meal with His friends before His arrest. This wasn’t just any meal, either. As they gathered around the table in a borrowed room, the Jewish lot assembled there did so in remembrance of the Exodus – in celebration of the Passover.

Jesus did something shocking around the table that night. Taking the position of a servant – on the floor with towel and water – Jesus performed some badly needed maintenance on the feet of His followers.

Can you imagine how unpleasant it would be to wash the feet of guys who have been hoofing it in sandals for who knows how long since their last shower? Picking up each foot and, with the help of some water, scrubbing off those road-weary hoofs demonstrated to the dumb-struck diners just how unconventional and counter-cultural this Jesus really was.

And it modeled for them the need to maintain what matters most.

“Within pain and filth, there is an opportunity to extend God’s kingdom through an expression of love, humility, and service. This simple act of washing feet is a metaphor for how the world looks through the lens of Jesus’ grace. He sees the people—the world He created—which He loves. He also sees the filthy corruption in the world that torments everyone. His mission is to cleanse those whom He loves from those horrors.

This is His redemptive work with feet, families, disease, famine, and hearts. When Jesus sees disease, He sees the opportunity to heal. When He sees sin, He sees a chance to forgive and redeem. When He sees dirty feet, He sees a chance to wash them.” John 13:11 (The Voice)

We spend a whole lot of time, energy and resources on the maintenance of our possessions and toys. Boats, houses, atv’s, cars, carpets, landscaping, computers, closets… While some of this maintenance is essential, the rest of it is costing us – breaking the bank, so to speak – and keeping us from investing in those things that matter most.

Teeth require maintenance or else you’ll suffer. Cavities, root canals, and crowns all cost much more in terms of time and tender (and pain management) than the few minutes it takes to maintain dental health each day.

Relationships require maintenance, too. So do attitudes and energy. To keep them operating at full potential, all of our investments call for a commitment to ongoing (yes, even routine) preservation efforts.

Dates. Coffee breaks. Naps. Exercise. Prayer. Bible study. Conversations. Celebrations. Dental floss. All a part of the necessary maintenance for those who Want What They’ve Got, and want to keep it around for a very long time.

Daily Questions: Think about the maintenance investments you make on a daily, weekly or regular basis. What gets the most attention in your world? The lawn? The laundry? Kids? Spouse? Electronics? Your own well-being and spiritual health? Weigh the things you value most by the attention you award them… Telling, isn’t it? Maybe there are some dirty feet in your world that need washing today. Maybe there are some maintenance contracts you need to break in order to tend to those feet, and to that which matters most. Want What You’ve Got? Take good care of it today.

Want What You’ve Got! (bully)

Person, Homeless, Bullied, Hiding, Alone, Sadness, Male

maxpixel.freegreatpicture.com

When I was in elementary school – fourth grade, to be exact – I was bullied by a kid named Chris. Chris singled me out early in the year, choosing to call me names other than the one my parents had chosen for me: Burrito and It.

The fact that I can still remember Chris’ face and the names he called me hints at just how deeply I was wounded by his childish and unrelenting teasing. People would tell me – especially well-meaning adults – that boys only tease girls this way because they like you…

Really? I didn’t believe it then. Still don’t.

In high school a bully named Clyde chose me from a pool of classmates. His stares violated my personal space for months – usually followed by whispers to his friends, their stares joining his, and then laughter or inappropriate comments. Or both. He so rattled my self-confidence that I actually sought help from the school counselor to make it stop (which is a big deal in high school – seeing the counselor meant that you were either in trouble or wimpy). I don’t remember it helping – in fact, I think it made things worse. After nearly failing a semester of chemistry with Clyde in the room, one of us had to go. I can still remember how his cruel oogling pierced my fragile self-image. Obviously – scars remain.

Joseph knew what it was like to be bullied – he had endured it all of his life. It probably didn’t help that he was Daddy’s favorite, sporting a colorful testimony of his father’s affection that day as he joined his older brothers in the fields. Joseph was dropped in a deep hole and sold as a slave to travelers by those who ought to have been looking out for him instead. Betrayed by those closest to him, Joseph began a life-journey that he did not choose and that he did not want.

Fast-forward to the scene described in Genesis 50 – Joseph, reunited with the family bullies, has just buried his father. Afraid that their now-powerful and influential little brother may be ready for payback, the clan begs Joseph not to retaliate. In a decidedly poignant foreshadowing of God’s redemptive plan, Joseph responds to his brothers with these words:

“It is true that you planned to do something bad to me. But really, God was planning good things. God’s plan was to use me to save the lives of many people. And that is what happened.” Genesis 50:20 (ERV)

Joseph had learned what our Savior Jesus knew as He hung, dying – a victim of brutality – bullying unto death. Jesus’ words, as recorded in Luke 23:34, are a glimpse into the truth Joseph spoke years before:

“Father, forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.”

They think this will shut me up. It won’t.

They think they can get rid of me forever. They can’t.

They think they are doing this to me. They aren’t.

Let’s be clear – there is a bully at work here – but the enemy of Christ, of Joseph, even the enemy of me isn’t Chris or Clyde or jealous siblings or military powers or church leaders. These folks don’t know what they’re doing! Mistaking the power they wield as their own, these bullies think they are causing harm and inflicting pain.

The bully – the enemy of God – has been rallying troops of broken, hurting, insecure people since the Story began. Jesus knew, Joseph discovered, and I’m slowly beginning to understand that while bullies participate in the work of the enemy, they aren’t him. My battles aren’t against people any more than Jesus was put to death by the power of some nails and a couple of pieces of wood. The person calling me names and reaching out toward me with ill intent is a piece of clay, just like me. Only, I choose to be shaped by the hands of the Potter rather than worked over by a craftsman whose commitment to his workmanship ends when it’s usefulness does, too.

No one Wants What They’ve Got when it’s a bully who’s dishing it out.

Joseph didn’t. I surely didn’t. Jesus didn’t, either. He even asked God to let Him pass on sipping from that cup.

But in the hands of the Potter and the Author of our faith, backwards is the new forwards! God is planning good things, and evil intent can be appropriated and used to shape a vessel that holds Living Water in quantities generous enough to quench the thirst of the whole world. Or fill the tummies of an entire famine-inflicted nation.

So – Want What You’ve Got, bullies and all, and wait for it…

Because no matter how things look today, God’s intentions are very, very good.

Daily Questions: Who are the bullies in your life today? Are you down in the trenches – or down in the dumps – struggling with an enemy you can see with your eyes? Think again. The world thought that the enemies of Jesus got the better of Him on the cross, but the real bully was waiting for Him on the other side. The resurrection proves that Jesus fought that battle and won! Choose today to want the eternal security you’ve got in Christ; stop giving so much power (and credit) to the bullies in your life! They really don’t know what they’re doing!

Want What You’ve Got! (shhh!)

8ELEVEN-silencePeople can be so infuriating, can’t they? Even in the church.

I was once referred to as Saint Brita by a co-worker who had a penchant for gossip and tiresome chit-chat, often at the expense of those who were not present to explain or defend themselves. I guess I had established myself as someone who wasn’t keen to participate in these third-party tirades, so as I was approaching one day, he called out – Hey! Here comes the Saint!

I wasn’t really sure how to take that.

On the one hand, I was actually offended, at the very least by the tone in his voice.

On the other hand, though I am far from being saintly, I suppose I prefer that label to a variety of others he might have used.

I really can’t recall how I responded at the time, but I’m pretty sure I opted to smile and keep on moving toward bigger, better and more meaningful things. But I stewed about it later. He got under my skin.

Rules of engagement for believers are challenging at best. Sometimes it hurts much more to bite my tongue than it would to spew poison right back at those who hurt and maim with their unkind and provocative words. I tend to move relatively gracefully through such war zones only to find the wounding rhetoric looping in my head for hours – even days – afterwards. I think of all sorts of comebacks after the fact, which riles me up and distracts me from seeing what is really going on: how easily I’m hacked by an enemy for whom no method of intrusion is off-limits.

I stumbled upon these words after my “sainthood” was established, and I have literally clung to them for dear life ever since:

“Excuse yourself from any conversations that turn into foolish and uninformed debates because you know they only provoke fights. As the Lord’s slave, you shouldn’t exhaust yourself in bickering; instead, be gentle—no matter who you are dealing with—ready and able to teach, tolerant without resentment, gently instructing those who stand up against you. Besides, the time may come when God grants them a change of heart so that they can arrive at the full knowledge of truth. And if they come to their senses, they can escape the devil’s snare and walk freed from his captivity and evil bidding.”  2 Timothy 2:23-26 (The Voice)

Sometimes the best response to the one who picks a fight is silence.

So today, in the face of immaturity and insensitivity, excuse yourself. Preserve your strength. Respond gently. Teach tolerantly. Instruct without resentment. Keep your wits about you. Walk free. Want What You’ve Got.

Daily Questions: When was the last time your patience was tested by someone whom Rick Warren would call an EGR – Extra Grace Required? Were they being foolish? Mean-spirited? Opinionated? Judgmental? Speaking out of turn? Un (or Under) -informed? Critical? (Or just annoying?) Shhh! What is the quietest response you can muster under the circumstances? How can you avoid burning a bridge that might be an EGR’s most direct route to the foot of the Cross? Will you meet them there this week?

 

Want What You’ve Got! (milepost)

 

Highway sign for Uno, Kentucky

(Photo credit: RyanDianna)

You know you are getting old when people call at 9 p.m. and ask, “Did I wake you?”

You know you are getting old when you have a party and the neighbors don’t even realize it.

You know you are getting old when you’re cautioned to slow down by your doctor instead of by the police.

You know you are getting old when there are fewer things you are willing to wait in line for.

You know you are getting old when you actually want socks for Christmas.

You know you are getting old when you tend to repeat yourself.

You know you are getting old when you tend to repeat yourself.

All joking aside, age is a milepost we aren’t likely to avoid as long as we’re breathing. And in spite of the terrifically bad rap that the aging receive, most of us would agree that the wisdom our age has earned us is worth every mile traveled.

My husband’s work requires a lot of time on the road. His emails and text messages are a daily reminder of the role played by mile markers on our highways when they indicate the location of a rollover, hazardous chemical spill or damaged guardrail. This past weekend a message came in noting a fatality at milepost such-and-such, and of course my road-minded partner knew just where the accident took place. And of course the news gave us pause and served as a reality-check… one day we, too, will reach the final milepost on these roads of age and life and experience.

But until that day, we keep on driving (or being towed, I guess, depending on the condition of the vehicle we’re in).

In terms of age, you have just passed or are approaching another milepost today. We share the road with others who are all over the map when it comes to their location in relationship to ours. Those behind us may drive faster and sportier cars, but they too will one day reach the milepost we’re at. Those ahead of us may drive with their blinkers on for miles at a time (with no intention of changing lanes), but one day we will find ourselves in the place where they are and we will better understand how turn signal etiquette can take a back seat to the more pressing issues that cling to the aging like magnets.

No matter which milepost you’ve most recently put behind you, Want What You’ve Got on the pavement you’re on!

There are older folks who need your energy and enthusiasm for living to rub off on them – so be lively!

There are younger folks who need your wise counsel and calm demeanor to give them hope – so be available!

There are others nearby who are lonely and road-weary, in desperate need of a companion for their journey – so join a caravan or pick up a hitchhiker and make the most of this adventure we’re on!

You know you’re getting old when you realize you wouldn’t trade your wisdom for youth, even with a Dodge Challenger thrown in to sweeten the deal. Want What You’ve Got at the milepost you’re at – and make the most of your road trip today!

Daily Questions: What words would you use to describe your life’s adventure thus far? Bumpy? Detoured? Lots of road construction? Too many setbacks, speeding tickets, photo-radar encounters? Or has it been one heck of a ride? How can your journey be leveraged to assist other motorists on the road? Are you willing to stop and help those who have been sidelined on the shoulder? Can you make room for a passenger or two? Maybe your expertise is exactly what is needed to jump-start the life of fellow travelers today!

 

 

 

Want What You’ve Got! (weekend)

Bubbles and shell

Bubbles and shell (Photo credit: Fellowship of the Rich)

This weekend I have the unique privilege of spending time with a family of four, in preparation for their baptisms. Do you remember your baptism?

I don’t. I was tiny, judging from the size of the baptismal gown that has been worn by many a baby in our family’s faith tradition. Many of us share this memory-gap when it comes to our initiation into God’s family, coming from traditions with deep roots and long histories.

The language I’ve inherited for these baptism classes I teach is kind of fun – they’re called Splash classes. Usually I meet with the parents of a baby or young child, discussing with them the connection between water and Spirit, and talking through what they can expect on baptism day. We light a candle, share stories from our experiences with the sacrament, and we talk about what it means to be a member of God’s family – at any age.

One of the gifts that is given to each family is a page-full of ideas for living out their baptism as believers in a dry and thirsty land. These suggestions for walking wet as a family include things like praying together at mealtimes and bedtime, listening to scripture songs in the car, and modeling a life of God-seeking for others by “getting caught” reading your Bible and praying at home.

Walking wet means living out a whole slew of potentially trite sayings – things like: Practicing what you preach. Walking the talk. More being ‘caught’ than taught.

Walking wet means keeping your cup full (vs half-anything) so that there’s enough Living Water in your life to splash around in. To splash on others. To have some fun with!

I don’t know your story. I don’t know whether you were sprinkled as an infant, dunked as a grown-up, or whether you’ve been splashed on by the Spirit in some equally supernatural way.

This weekend, will you consider what it means to Want What You’ve Got in terms of Water supply?

If you’ve been baptized, will you take time to remember and thank God for your faithful family members and the nudge of the Spirit that brought you to the river’s edge?

If you’ve been involved with God’s family but haven’t yet taken the plunge, will you consider joining many who, on Easter, will take their first dip in God’s sea of forgiveness and forgetfulness on this grace-filled day?

And if you’re dry and dehydrated and seek something holy to quench your thirst, will you come to the Water for something much, much better than the temporary beverage this world is trying to sell?

Whether it’s a puddle or a birdbath, a pond or a wave, a squirt gun or a water balloon… let’s make a Spirit-splash and Want What We’ve Got today!

Want What You’ve Got! (alarm)

English: The face of a black windup alarm clock

English: The face of a black windup alarm clock (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

One of the most-used and indispensable items in my possession is a small, battery operated alarm clock. Without its help, my children would have won the most-tardy award every year in school.

If you must know, I sleep with it just above my pillow, on the mattress, so that when it goes off I will hear it and need only extend an arm to retrieve and silence it before dozing off for a five-minute increment of snooze-sleep. These days it takes a few snooze cycles before I’m sufficiently roused to start the day, but it used to be worse.

Do I set my alarm on days when I have nothing important to accomplish – no meetings or classes or appointments to keep? Are you kidding? Nope. I use my alarm so that I don’t miss the things that matter – like the opportunity to earn a paycheck or spend a day hanging out with my family or friends.

There is a smoke alarm in the laundry room, next to my kitchen. Years ago we learned it best not to keep the alarm in the kitchen, due to my delicately-honed culinary skills. The day that my children heard the fire detector’s alarm sound and followed it up with the announcement that “dinner’s ready!” was the day the relocation took place. Annoyances aside, this alarm may very well have saved my house from being filled with smoke during episodes of aggressive cooking through the years.

Security systems often find their way into our homes in seasons of fearfulness. During one such season, our security company gave us a convenient little key fob to use for arming and disarming the system. What a terrific idea! Our three year old son thought so, too, every time he pushed the distress button after commandeering my keychain. Several apologies later, to the nice policemen who answered those distress calls, the key fob found a nice home in the drawer where I keep my owner’s manuals and the incidence of unwarranted soundings of the alarm were minimized (much to the relief of our entire neighborhood).

We use alarms for things that matter – things like keeping our commitments, insuring our safety, and preserving our possessions. We Want What We’ve Got, so we take measures to keep it, sounding alarms to keep things in check.

So… where’s the alarm to bring us closer to God?

We set alarms every morning to wake us up on time, but where’s the alarm to rouse us from our self-induced spiritual comas?

We set alarms to keep intruders from entering and taking what is ours, but isn’t there an alarm to sound when thought-invaders and joy-stealing bullies overstep their boundaries and threaten our carefully chosen way of life?

I attended the funeral of a dear, older gentleman from my church last week. Near the end of the service, because he had been in military service, an honor guard presented his widow with an American flag. As the first salutatory shot was fired outside the church door, everyone jumped. And wept.

The abruptness of death is what many will say is the wake-up call of the heart.

Losing the companionship of someone we love calls into question our priorities and loyalties and often strips away the pretense that our attempts at living can create. After such a great loss of life we find ourselves dissatisfied with the trivial and petty concerns that used to hold us captive.

Like the powerful blast of the honor guard’s rifles, death sounds an alarm that has the potential to wake you from sleep and draw you close to the heart of the Father, whose welcoming arms are at the ready to embrace you – no matter what state you are in.

This week, as Easter celebrations draw near, hear the metal blast of hammer-on-nail. At the executioner’s stake, the alarm is sounding…

Wake up!

Stop hitting snooze!

This matters!

Life was meant to be lived, and newsflash:  You are alive!

As Holy Week approaches, Want this wake-up call You’ve Got – the life, death and resurrection of a selfless Savior and redeeming King!

Daily Questions: You know, you need not wait until you’re grieving to heed the sounding alarm that says: Connection with God matters. How might you tune in to the soft whisper of the Spirit as He calls out to you in the midst of the events we remember in the coming week? What kind of alarm will it take to awaken what’s snoozing inside of you? How might you participate with God in sounding the alarm for others?

Want What You’ve Got! (brand)

Be yourself / Sé tú

(Photo credit: victor_nuno)

Have you updated your resume lately?

If so, then the challenge of portraying yourself as the ideal candidate for potential employers or scholarship committees is fresh in your brain. How do we honestly and accurately summarize our abilities, experiences and personality in a flat, one-page document? Is it possible to be both succinct and startlingly appealing on paper?

There are people who make their living in an effort to say YES to that question! Consultants who help others build a resume to land their dream job have all sorts of tips and tricks to help you stand out in a stack of paper people. A quick web search will locate hundreds of blogs and websites with suggestions for crafting the perfect resume – which doesn’t always seem helpful, does it? Information overload can make it even harder to begin.

It seems to me that much of the difficulty in resume-creation comes from the tension between what we think an employer is looking for and what we truly bring to the table – who we actually are. I’m sure that it’s possible to meld the two into one rock-solid, top-notch page containing all of the necessary key words and phrases required to catch a potential employer’s attention, but I’m just not sure that this method is serving us well.

Enter the concept of personal branding. You know your favorite brand names, right? My son’s top brand right now is Adidas, which he identifies with soccer, his favorite players of the sport, athletic prowess and active functionality. Adidas embodies these things for him and he identifies with those three stripes because they consistently provide what he expects them to: utter coolness.

There is a movement in some career counseling circles that takes this branding concept – packaging a product in a clear, consistent and marketable way – and applies it to the way you present yourself to the world. Some call it personal branding.

Here’s how it rolls…

Rather than trying to re-create yourself on paper in a way that (if you’re lucky) will meet an employer’s expectations, personal branding begins with discovering who you actually are. You are the sum of your experience, education, interests and passions! Personal branding helps you to package yourself in such a way that your true colors are evident in black & white as your resume is reviewed.

After having strayed so far from herself in the resume creation process, blogger Gail Belsky describes her experience with personal branding, under the tutelage of author/guru Karen Kang:

“The truth is, I look like what I am: an editor and writer with a wide range of experience, including aspects of communication and marketing. Kang gave me permission to be that person. She suggested that I build out from my identity, rather than change it entirely. It was enough to give me whiplash, but I was glad to be back.”

It’s a sad commentary on what our world has become when the art of job acquisition requires us to play so completely to the audience that we lose ourselves – our unique, God-crafted identity – in the process. The concept of personal branding, though seemingly new on the job search landscape, is actually quite old. The apostle Paul spoke about it in his letter to the Galatians:

“Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.” Galatians 6:4-5 (The Message)

Essentially, Paul tells us to Want What We’ve Got! God’s way for His people in this world has always been personal branding. Figure out who you are, put that into words that make sense to others, and then live it!

“But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified.

Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives. That means we will not compare ourselves with each other as if one of us were better and another worse. We have far more interesting things to do with our lives. Each of us is an original.” Galatians 5:22-23, 25 (The Message)

Friend, YOU are an original! Maybe it’s time for a sit-down with your heavenly career consultant today. Maybe you have lost yourself in the legalism of the world – choosing a life of responding to people’s expectations instead of living into the one-of-a-kind existence that God Himself created you for. You’ve got much more interesting work to do than simply fitting in – you are your own brand name in the power of the Cross!

God has given you permission to be that person. Want What You’ve Got and market that to the world! Amen?!

Daily Questions: Consider discovering your personal brand! What is it about the brands you are faithful to that keeps you coming back for more? Quality? A particular style or design? Accessibility? Affordability? Make a crazy, unedited list of every unique energy, ability and perspective you’ve been given. Put your true heartbeat down on paper, playing to an audience of One! Ask God for the strength to be your own brand in our cookie-cutter society, and watch for opportunities to Want What You’ve Got!

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Want What You’ve Got! (manual)

A bible from 1859.

A bible from 1859. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

There’s a drawer in my kitchen where owner’s manuals go to die.

It’s a slow death, mind you, but I don’t think they really mind… They have lots of company in there.

A quick look today confirms the presence of manuals for an eclectic assembly of household items: irrigation system control panel, coffee pot, rice cooker/steamer, lawn mower, crock pot, shower head, carbon monoxide detector, wine refrigerator, cordless telephone – should I go on?

Everything we own requires instruction to some degree. Whether we read the book cover-to-cover first or file it away until malfunction and frustration get the better of us, there is a learning curve when it comes to using our stuff.

Most of the time I’ll use an owner’s manual the day I take an item out of its box. Once it’s set up and functioning properly, though, the how-to gets deposited in the drawer with all the others. Only when a problem arises, like when the coffee sprays out horizontally instead of pouring down steadily into the cup, does the manual see the light of day. Useful for troubleshooting and for finding the manufacturer’s phone number so that I can call and complain about the coffee stains on the carpet, owner’s manuals add precious little to my quality of life. So I hang onto them for awhile, until the statute of limitations for that gizmo or gadget has been reached. Then I throw it away.

A lot of us treat the Bible like I treat my owner’s manuals.

We indulge in a quick read when set-up or learning is needed, but once things are up and running, we file it away on a dusty shelf or in a deep, dark drawer with other things we just might need some day.

Malfunction takes place and frustration sets in, so we take the Book out and we open it up and we look for a way to troubleshoot the problem we’re experiencing. If that doesn’t work, we page through in an effort to find a way to customer service – so that we can complain to the Manufacturer about His faulty product (and maybe get Him to send a new one at no additional charge, because the customer’s always right… Right?).

For many, God’s Word is valued about as much as an Ikea assembly pamphlet, serving a limited purpose and contributing precious little to the owner’s quality of life.

Some would say that God is good for helping us get started, but once we figure out how things work, well – we can take it from here, thank you.

Some reach for the Book in times of loss or in throes of fear and find peace in its pages. At least for awhile.

Others leaf madly through when nothing seems to make sense, searching for a way to get to the top of the chain of command – because we get very tired of being passed through the powerless ranks and being asked for the umpteenth time, “will you hold?”

Do we Want What We’ve Got – the words and presence and heartbeat of God in these pages – or are we simply looking for another owner’s manual that we can use to diagnose and repair what ails us – something that serves us – a user’s guide (as if we can use God to get things to work the way we want them to)?

If what Jesus said to the tempter in the desert is true – that “it is not just bread that keeps people alive. Their lives depend on what God says” (Matthew 4:4) – then the Bible is much, much more than a how-to book… It’s a game-changer.

It’s meat and carbs and sustenance. Heck – it’s all six food groups!

Without God’s Word we may be walking and talking, but friends, we aren’t living.

Want the Word of God that You’ve Got today – on that shelf, in a drawer, on your personal electronic device – and let it connect you to the Author Himself.

Your life depends on it.

Daily Questions: Where do the Bibles in your house live? What are your reasons for opening up God’s Word? Are you looking for solutions? Instructions? Relationship? Connection? Food?! The Word of God is living and active, not just small print on a page. How does someone read a Book like that? Or does that Book read you?