Let Your Spiritual Gifts S–T–R–E–T–C–H You

“Vocation is the place where our deep gladness meets the world’s deep need.”

Frederick Buechner

Discovering your spiritual gifts will help you find your vocation.  If you are asking yourself, what is a vocation, here’s the definition:

A vocation is an occupation to which a person is specially drawn or for which they are suited, trained, or qualified. Though now often used in non-religious contexts, the meanings of the term originated in Christianity.

At one point in the world’s history, vocation was an idea reserved for priests, nuns and monks who devoted themselves to God.  Martin Luther changed that kind of thinking when he said:

A cobbler, a smith, a farmer, each has the work and office of his trade, and yet they are all alike consecrated priests and bishops, and every one by means of his own work or office must benefit and serve every other, that in this way many kinds of work may be done for the bodily and spiritual welfare of the community, even as all the members of the body serve one another…”

All of us have a vocation, or calling in the plan of God.  We don’t have to be pastors or missionaries;  we can use our gifts in our church, our community and our careers.  The challenge is to be aware of this and make a conscious effort to serve others.  When you do this, you will find yourself growing in God’s grace and doing things you probably never imagined.

For example, before I retired, our personnel officer made a visit to me and I shared my feeling that our hospital no longer cared about our lowest level employees;  small benefits were being cut that meant little to most of us, but quite a bit to these people — for example, no discount at the hospital cafeteria.  Because I spoke out, he created an “Angel Fund”– money designated to help employees who were struggling with a particular situation — serious illness, for example.  I served on that committee and it is still going on years later.  It’s something I would never have imagined doing.

I am an introvert, but because I am passionate about spiritual growth, I became the leader of a Via de Cristo retreat.  I love to write and encourage people, and so I wrote a Bible Study for the women of our denomination — this required me to go to a conference and stand up in front of 200 women to give a devotional reading!  If anyone had told me when I was twenty that I would do such things, I would have laughed (hmmm– maybe like Sarah when God told her she would have a child at 95!).

Anyway, my point is this — follow your gifts, follow God’s leading, and you will find yourself in the most unexpected places.  You’ll be amazed at what you and Christ can do together.

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The Laity–A Royal Priesthood

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.  ” 1 Peter 2:9

In medieval times, everyone regarded the monks and nuns, with their religious vows of poverty, chastity and obedience as the truly religious ones.  Lay people were simply out of the running.  Martin Luther thought this was wrong and the verse from 1 Peter bears reinforces this.  Luther maintained that the milkmaid or carpenter was called to serve others in a practical way, and if their work was done to the glory of God, it was as holy as the prayers of the priests.  As with so much of the Christian life, it’s all a matter of attitude.

There’s an old story you may have heard that goes something like this:

“A man came across three masons who were working at chipping chunks of granite from large blocks. The first seemed unhappy at his job, chipping away and frequently looking at his watch. When the man asked what it was that he was doing, the first mason responded, rather curtly, “I’m hammering this stupid rock, and I can’t wait ’til 5 when I can go home.”

”A second mason, seemingly more interested in his work, was hammering diligently and when asked what it was that he was doing, answered, “Well, I’m molding this block of rock so that it can be used with others to construct a wall. It’s not bad work, but I’ll sure be glad when it’s done.”

”A third mason was hammering at his block fervently, taking time to stand back and admire his work. He chipped off small pieces until he was satisfied that it was the best he could do. When he was questioned about his work he stopped, gazed skyward and proudly proclaimed, “I…am building a cathedral!”

As lay people, we have all kinds of work.  We can choose to see it as service to others, and an opportunity to witness;  or we can whine and complain that it’s not very enjoyable.  We can work for the glory of God, or we can work for a paycheck that’s never quite enough.  In our daily lives we meet all kinds of people.  We can see this as an opportunity to serve and witness, or be annoyed because we’re surrounded by those who don’t meet our standards of behavior.

Which mason are you most like?  Do you need to adjust your attitude? You’re part of a royal priesthood.  Remember what you’re building and who you’re really working for.

 

 

Work — Nourishment for the Soul?

I just finished another chapter of the book I’ve been reading for my morning devotional, Awake My Soul, by Timothy Jones.  He poses an interesting question — Can work not only feed the body, but nourish the soul?  It’s a chapter about the idea of vocation, or calling.  Martin Luther, of course, argued that not only priests and nuns, but milkmaids, blacksmiths and housewives shared in God’s work in the world.  The work we do becomes holy if reverently approached.  Our work can serve others and influence others for Christ.

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Just recently I was talking to a friend about her Via de Cristo retreat (I was the leader of her weekend).  I shared with her how I felt that God had called me to train the team for that retreat, and she said, “Joan, you trained the team just for me.”  One of the big surprises that happened for my friend, was an opportunity to reconnect with another woman named Karen, someone she hadn’t seen since she was a girl.  Karen became Beth Ann’s spiritual mentor for a time.  I knew Karen through my workplace;  I was working at a job I was not eager to take, yet it led to an amazing experience for somebody else. No doubt there were other plans of God at work that I’ll never even know about.  It wasn’t where I wanted to be, but it was where I needed to be, and where God placed me at that time.  Knowing that has nourished my soul.

Often we are called to do what we enjoy, even if it involves financial sacrifice.  After retirement, I started work for the local library, only to find myself feeling unsettled.  I liked the job;  I like the people, so what was the problem?  I just had the continual, nagging feeling that it was taking me away from what God wanted me to do.  So I quit and now find myself blogging and working as a volunteer for my church.  These activities have fed my soul, and maybe to the souls of a few others.

Of course, it’s a constant challenge to discern God’s will, and we’ll make wrong turns.  We won’t always get it right.  We must pray, ask advice from Godly friends, and pay attention to our circumstances and how God is using our gifts and talents.

As Jones says in his book,

“We spend too much time at work for it not to be a setting for daily seeking and experiencing God.  …..CONCENTRATE ON WORK, BUT MAKE ROOM FOR GOD…”

 

Stewardship of Our Life

Image result for martin luther quotes on vocationI blogged recently about being a Pastor’s wife.  The truth is I, and all of you, have many roles.  We are mothers and wives, employees and daughters, friends and neighbors, church members and siblings.  In each of these roles we have a responsibility to be God’s hands and feet in the world.  On a Via de Cristo weekend, we call the team members who are serving  others chas, which stands for Christ’s hands in Action.  When you think of your whole life that way, it puts a different perspective on the smallest and most mundane actions.

Martin Luther, changed the whole understanding of vocation.  In his time, those who had a “vocation” were the priests, nuns and monks.  These people were the ones who were giving their lives to God.  Luther said everyone could do this;  those in religious orders were no different or better than the ordinary person who was striving to dedicate their daily life to God.  Milking cows was as holy and important a role as leading the Mass.

This doesn’t mean we can go about our lives without any thought of God;  instead it means that we should be thinking of God and trying to do His will ALL THE TIME.  Imagine how the world would change if every one of us did this?  It would put an end to a lot of cursing, gossip, insults and other kinds of careless talk.  It would lead to productive employees, concerned parents, helpful neighbors and caring friends.  I suspect that the harder I try to do this, the more contented and peaceful I’ll become.

The work I have in this world is the work God has given me.  The roles I fulfill are the ones He chose for me.  Each of them will teach me something and bring me closer to Him if I just remember who I am:  a steward of the King.

What’s Your Vocation?

Vocation is one of those words Lutherans like to use.  Luther taught that each of us has a vocation, or calling, it’s not something reserved for priests, monks and nuns. It can be lived out in the midst of ordinary life. True vocation is that passion I spoke about in my last post.  In Rick Warren’s book, The Purpose Filled Life when he asked the question, “What on earth am I here for?”  Each of us has to answer that question, hopefully in a prayerful way, in order to discover our vocation.

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What Turns You On?

Eric Liddell,  the famous Olympic runner portrayed in the movie “Chariots of Fire” once said, “God made me fast and when I run, I feel His pleasure.”  If, like Kate, you are wondering how to spend your time, look toward your God-given talents and gifts, and look for your passion.  When do you get the feeling, “this is what I was meant to do?”

A couple of my blogging sisters call me “the blogoholic”.  They say I am obsessed with our blog.  I don’t think that’s really true, but right now it is my passion.  It doesn’t feel like work to write a post practically every day.  I get a charge out of every comment and like.  I get an even bigger charge when I find a new writer to join us,  learn something new about technology, or when someone else shares a post.  Writing is a talent, and encouragement is one of my spiritual gifts–being the chief blogger combines both and I love it.

My dear friend, Nancy is a teacher.  She once told me that teaching is not just a job for her–if she couldn’t get paid for it, she would teach anyway.   She would teach Sunday School, or Bible Study, or join the Literacy Council and teach reading.  Teaching is her passion.

Beth Ann, one of the lady bloggers, is a musician.  The best times of her life have been spent making music.  She sings in the choir, she plays guitar for Via de Cristo weekends and serves on the Via de Cristo Board as the head musician.  Music touches her in a special way.  It’s her passion.

Michele, another Lutheran Lady, loves people and loves to witness.  She proclaims her Christian faith “loud and proud.”  It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you’ve done, Michele wants to be your friend and introduce you to her best friend, Jesus.  It’s her passion.

So think about your life.  What are the things that make you feel fulfilled?  When do you get that “click” that means, I was created for this?  If you became independently wealthy and didn’t need to work, how would you spend your time and money?  What energizes you?  What turns you on?  I want to hear from our readers and bloggers!

“Never flag in zeal, be aglow with the Spirit, serve the Lord.”  Romans 12:11