Want What You’ve Got! (wannabe)

Hand in handI remember sitting on the big, comfy chair in our family room as I filled out forms that evening. It’s been several years since that night – I can’t actually recall what the forms were for – but I have a crystal clear memory of reaching the space on the page that asked for employment information.

A very small line was provided for my answer to the prompt: Job Title.

Now, perhaps it will help you to know that mine has been a fairly circuitous path where career is concerned. An education degree, selected largely due to an anticipated teacher shortage (you know – job security), spit me out of college into a market flooded with aspiring educators who had been fed the same misinformation. After several long and painful years of subbing and interviewing and tearing up rejection letters, I landed at the YMCA via a few strange and interesting work-experiments in my young adult years.

The seven years I spent with the Y were fruitful (mostly for the Y, somewhat for me) and I left exhausted but enthused about a new career path: stay-at-home-mom. This lasted a few short years (serious kudos to moms who make home and family their career – toughest job ever!) after which I went to work part-time in our local church.

This is where it gets squirrely. Church-work may come with a title, but it’s rarely descriptive of what you actually do there. Having spent the past 14 years on this career adventure, I can tell you that there are days when even I couldn’t tell you what my job is – let alone sum it up on a line as short as the one provided on the form in my lap that night.

So, I did what most of you would do. I asked my family for help.

Big mistake.

There was some legitimate brainstorming at first, but things went downhill quickly. I can’t recall any of the job titles suggested by my kids except the one that finally stuck (and is still firmly attached to me today): Wannabe Pastor.

I’m pretty sure that is not what I wrote on the form that night, but these words have taken me on quite a journey in my head through the years – a journey of Wanting What I’ve Got in light of what I don’t have…

A seminary degree. A cool, pastory title beside my name. An office. A collar (though I did find out that anyone can buy these through church supply catalogs – I don’t think they actually require your credentials at check-out). A stamp of approval on my ministry from a sanctioned institute of higher religious education (is that redundant?).

But every single day since my “true” job title was coined, I pay attention to the work I’ve been doing all along. I look intently into the eyes of the women in my small groups. I hand Kleenex to church members who sometimes have no words for what’s breaking their hearts. I get kisses laced with dinner from children every week and hold hands with teenagers who may not actually have washed their hands since they took their last shower. I pray with families. I eat a lot of crockpot meals around crowded tables. And I love on people. A lot. Because that’s what Wannabe Pastors do.

What I’ve got is a career that was tailor-made for me. It didn’t come with a job description (I actually write those myself). It didn’t provide me with a Rev. or Dr. to dress up my signature. But I Want What I’ve Got as a Wannabe Pastor because, at least for today, this is where God can use me.

This is a call-out to all of the Wannabe Rock Stars, Poets, Photographers, Athletes, Counselors, Doctors and Pastors of the world…

You are the best Wannabe for the job! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. It’s more than okay to Want What You’ve Got whether it came with an awesome title or not (of course you can always go for the title, too).

You can Wannabe anything you wanna be! (Can I get an Amen?)

Daily Questions: What would you say your “true” job title is today? How does what you do at work connect with who you are becoming? Would taking on a Wannabe job title change the way you look at what you do for a living (or perhaps help you to Want What You’ve Got)? Does thinking about your life like this cause you to ask questions about your job? Your commitments? Your future plans? Go ahead – ask them!

Growing Season (a PINK Tuesday post)

Wind Blown Leaves

Wind Blown Leaves (Photo credit: Photos by Lina)

I still remember the day that I turned 20.

I can picture myself walking across the campus of the University of Wyoming, having had to turn up my collar and zip my jacket to my chin in order to keep from shivering in the crisp autumn air.

It was all a sort of vivid reality check – a sensory assault, really. As if the realization that I wasn’t a teenager anymore wasn’t tangible enough, enter that cold north wind whose breath sent brittle leaves skipping across the pavement – a sort of prophetic song and dance to usher in the season’s first snowfall, which that year had to come in September.

I had been married for just over a month on the day that I turned 20. Maybe it was because I was in multiple poetry classes at the time, but I remember my thoughts unfolding in rhyme and cadence as I walked through that milestone morning of awakening.

It was the day that I grew up.

I don’t have a memory like this to accompany any other birthday (isn’t that strange?). Something changed in me on that day – I can’t explain it, I don’t understand it – but I remember it as if it happened yesterday, especially when the first hints of winter come around.

Years later, a thirty-something with life experience and a growing family to boot, I caught that same wind-of-change as I made my nightly rounds at the YMCA camp where I worked and lived. The chain on the old flagpole clanged loudly as I walked past, my feet clacking on the wooden boardwalk between the old camp buildings. The chill in my nostrils woke everything up inside of me, giving me the feeling that I was on the brink of something new and that everything was about to change… again.

A song came to mind on my walk that night – the lyrics and a YouTube link are here, for you to enjoy on this PINK Tuesday.

Maybe autumn-changing-into-winter doesn’t strike you as prime growing season, but I assure you that it is. Or, it can be.

May the chill in the air awaken you to God’s new thing – and stir your soul to holiness.

Wind and Spirit, by Chris Rice

I hear a sound and turn to see a new direction on that rusty weather vane              Suddenly the dead brown leaves are stirred to scratch their circle dances down the lane

And now the sturdy oaks start clappin’ with the last few stubborn leaves that won’t let go     I can hear Old Glory snappin’ and her tattered rope now clangin’ against the pole

And my breath is snatched away and a chill runs up my spine                                       Feels like somethin’s on the way, so I look up to the sky, I look up to the sky

And from the corners of creation comes the Father’s holy breath                                  Ridin’ on a storm with tender fierceness, stirring my soul to holiness, stirring my soul to holiness

I see the lifeless dust now resurrected, swirling up against my window pane                   And carried ‘cross the distance come the long awaited fragrances of earth and rain

And out across the amber field the slender grasses bend and bow and kiss the ground And in them I see the beauty of the souls who let the spirit lay them down

And it takes my breath away. and a tear comes to my eye                                             Feels like somethin’s on the way, so I look up to the sky, I look up to the sky

And from the corners of creation comes the Father’s holy breath                                  Ridin’ on a storm with tender fierceness, stirring my soul to holiness, stirring my soul to holiness

And like a mighty wind blows with a force I cannot see, I will open wide my wings, I will open wide my wings, I will open wide my wings and let the spirit carry me

From the corners of creation comes the Father’s holy breath                                        Ridin’ on a storm with tender fierceness, stirring my soul to holiness, stirring my soul to holiness

I hear a sound and turn to see a new direction on that rusty weather vane.

This Explains a LOT… (a PINK Tuesday post)

Walking through a favorite store last week, this sign caught my eye.

Sharing my name with a line of filter products hasn’t really affected me much, but there are times – as on this particular day – when my life parallels the life of my inanimate siblings on the shelf.

Temporary Price Cut. 15% Off. Brita.

I had to giggle as I stopped to capture this photo and I walked away thinking that this explains a LOT! There are certainly days when I am 15% off… Off-kilter. Off-target. Off-my-rocker. 

I even wondered what I might have 15% less of? Energy? Focus? Enthusiasm? Patience? (Stop me, please – I could go on & on!)

For the bargain price of 15% off, you could possess Brita – an indicator that demand must be lower than supply right now. Isn’t that why products receive temporary price cuts – to generate demand for the stockpiles of product lining warehouse shelves?

If so, I have to ask – then what? What happens, once the sale has ended, and everyone wants a piece of me? I suspect you’ve had days like this, where it seems everyone is after you for something. On these days, by the time we collapse into bed for the night, we feel like there must’ve been a sale going on that we weren’t notified about. We feel as if we gave ourselves away to the hungry consumers in our lives. We wonder if we might have been taken advantage of, since we know that we’re worth the full price on our sticker (right?).

There’s an innate, defensive reaction to giving our lives away that flows from our personal value perception (like my personal response to this 15% Off sign). I have to admit that my initial reaction to the Brita sign was – Are you serious?! You (not sure who I was talking to) couldn’t even afford me! You can’t put a price tag on Brita! Go ahead and TRY!

Now that I’ve settled down a bit, I realize that it’s the world that puts a price tag on what we have to contribute. It’s the culture around us that dictates value based on our gifts and talents, making us feel as if we must hold out for those who will pay full-price for our abilities and resist any urge to give ourselves away for less. But in God’s economy, to withhold our full value because others can’t ‘afford’ our sticker price is to thwart the work of the Spirit, making my life something that it is not…

Mine.

When I worked for the YMCA years ago, I was very much aware of the organization’s policy to offer its services on a sliding fee scale. The reason for this is simple: they believe that they have a product too valuable to withhold from anyone who needs it, regardless of their ability to pay.

God teaches us this same concept, reminding us not to withhold any good thing from others if it is in our power to provide it for them.

“…get out there and walk – better yet, run! – on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline – not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.” Ephesians 4:1-3 (The Message)

Pour yourself out for the Kingdom!

I picture our Savior on the cross, with a price tag attached that has been edited to read:

His Life for Yours – 15% Off25% Off75% OffHis Gift to You.

This is no temporary price reduction – this is grace.

Jesus’ gift of salvation is not free, but paid for.

This explains a LOT.

the Main Thing (a PINK Tuesday post)

Some of you know that the closest thing I’ve had to a career was the seven years that I spent working for the YMCA in Wichita, Kansas. One of the things that the Y did very well was training, and I completed a battery of core classes that were taught nationwide to young Y professionals, beginning with a class called “Principles & Practices.” This class was more like a week-long retreat where we soaked up everything we could about the background and basics of the YMCA movement.

One thing stands out to me about that week. One of our leaders – a big, smiling, baritone, southern black man – taught us this saying as he stressed the importance of the YMCA mission statement. He said:

“The Main Thing is to keep the Main Thing the Main Thing!”

And the “Main Thing” for the YMCA is its mission, which (at the time) was to:

“Put Christian principles into practice through programs that build healthy spirit, mind, and body for all.”

This mission sets the Y apart from other health clubs and social agencies, serving as a means of focus for those who represent the Y in their communities.

OUR mission, as Christians, is supposed to do that, too.

Set us apart! Define us! Make us recognizable in our communities and to the world! But when it comes to deciding what our focused mission is, well – the jury’s still out in Christendom…

Because for some, the mission is to:

  • See to it that everyone lives in cookie-cutter likeness to an image of the “perfect Christian” (whatever THAT is)
  • Win souls for Jesus until the convert quota is reached and we can all get to heaven
  • Seek out and point (or wag) the finger at sin, because somehow by accusing others, they will want to JOIN USJOIN our CHURCHES?!

Jesus, however, has CLEARLY STATED the mission of His people. The MAIN THING for us, as followers of Jesus, is to LOVE!

The Main Thing is to keep the Main Thing the Main Thing!
And the Main Thing is LOVE!

Don’t let its simplicity deceive you – because challenges ABOUND. The enemies of God appear most often as temptations, and on this PINK Tuesday we are going to shine some light into these dark places in order to keep our focus on the Main Thing!

Even though you know it in your head – and you may feel it in your heart – that the Main Thing is LOVE, you will be tempted to make it all about the RULES…

Religion, after all, is often all about the RULES. When you join a church, there’s probably at least some discussion about the rules that members should follow. Even the Bible itself is often interpreted as a book of rules (think: The 10 Commandments).

This focus on rules shouldn’t surprise us, though, because the more sidetracked God’s enemy can keep us in the “rule-keeping business” of church, the less likely it is that we are actually going to DO ANYTHING that matters to God or that might further His Kingdom in this world.

We will find ourselves asking, as one of Jesus’ listeners once did:

Which rule is the most important one?

And His answer, well, it should come as no surprise to us today (found in Matthew 22:36-40).

Jesus Himself says LOVE COMES FIRST.

And WE say:

The Main Thing is to keep the Main Thing the Main Thing!
And the Main Thing is LOVE!

You will be tempted to think that life in Christ is a CHOICE that YOU make, and you might use this to “choose” to walk away from Him in the future. This is where our sinful nature becomes an enemy of God, by attributing authority to ourselves that rightfully belongs only to Him.

Jesus Himself says in John 15:16 that “You did not choose me but I chose you.”

And scripture reminds us that we are not our own, but were bought at a price.

The cross is a SIGN of the price God has paid for you. He didn’t have to do it, but He LOVED YOU TOO MUCH NOT TO.

The Main Thing is to keep the Main Thing the Main Thing!
And the Main Thing is LOVE!

You will be tempted to assume that God’s presence is predictable and that the places and people you will find Him in will fit into some kind of churchy-Christian “mold”…

After all, Peter was! Peter was convinced that the ministry of Jesus was ONLY for the Jews, so when God called him to bring the Good News to a family of non-Jews, he was skeptical. But Peter did what God prompted him to do and told them about salvation through Jesus. The rest of the story is found in Acts chapter 10, where Peter and his companions were ASTOUNDED that the Holy Spirit was being poured out on these Gentiles! Peter didn’t let his prejudice and limited understanding keep God from doing His work in whomever He chose.

Because the Spirit of God, scripture tells us, goes wherever He wants to go. And I have come to believe that where you FIND LOVE, you FIND GOD.

After all,

The Main Thing is to keep the Main Thing the Main Thing!
And the Main Thing is LOVE!

You will be tempted to believe the world when it tells you that your faith in God is trivial, unimportant, unnecessary, irrelevant… okay on Sunday mornings but not worth much when Monday rolls around…

The world is at odds with God’s purposes and plan. Scripture says that the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world. What the world would really like to see us do is compartmentalize our faith – chop it up into bite-sized chunks that are more palatable and easier to chew.

But we don’t have to bow down to this world! In fact, 1 John 5:4-5 says that: “whatever is born of God conquers the world. And this is the victory that conquers the world, our faith. Who is it that conquers the world but the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?”

And what better way to demonstrate that we believe in Jesus, the Son of God, than to stand firm in our belief that:

The Main Thing is to keep the Main Thing the Main Thing!
And the Main Thing is LOVE!

You will be tempted to see yourself as a worker in the vineyard – making it all about the work

This is where the enemy strikes many Christians – when our “Christian Duty” becomes the “Main Thing.” But Jesus Himself says: “I do not call you servants any longer, because the servant does not know what the master is doing; but I have called you friends.” John 15:15

And you can’t be friends without LOVE.

The Main Thing is to keep the Main Thing the Main Thing!
And the Main Thing is LOVE!

Finally, you will be tempted to buy the lie that no one loves you – you will go through times in life where you are lonely, unattached, even betrayed by those who are close to you… 

And in these times, may you look at the cross and remember these words of Jesus: “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” John 15:13

Jesus didn’t just say the words… He LIVED THEM.

FOR YOU.

And it was His great love for you that led Him to His death, so that in His resurrection we might love one another as Jesus Himself has loved us!

Because…

The Main Thing is to keep the Main Thing the Main Thing!
And the Main Thing is LOVE!    

My beautiful sisters, don’t just say the words.

LIVE THEM.

Love conquers Darkness

Image by Lel4nd via Flickr