Entries in Vocation (11)
In The Calling, Os Guinness discusses how calling transforms the "ordinary:"
calling transforms life so that even the commonplace and menial are immersed with the splendor of the ordinary.
The splendor of the ordinary. I like that. Even people whom we consider extraordinary have ordinary aspects to their lives. When we heap our praise and adoration on celebrities, whether they are musicians, actors, or celebrity pastors, it's good to keep in mind that they have ordinary elements to their lives.
Most people are ordinary.
Guinness discusses the "amateur:"
To our shame we moderns have taken the word amateur, opposed it to professionalism and excellence, and turned it into a matter of tepid motives and shoddy results. But amateur, as G.K. Chesterton never tired of saying, means "lover." " A man must love a thing very much if he not only practices is without any hope of fame or money, but even practices it without any hope of doing it well." Which, of course, is the origin of Chesterton's famous subversion of the traditional proverb: "If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly."
Yep. It's as I suspected. I'm an amateur in pretty much all facets of my life. With regard to writing, I continue to do so with full understanding that there will be no fame or money from it.
I remember when I was a young girl, my parents were watching the Olympics one year. It was Montreal, in 1976. My mother loves the Olympics. We were watching the wrestling. I had never seen Olympic wrestling before. My view of wrestling was the Hulk Hogan kind that I saw on television occasionally. I actually enjoyed the Olympic wrestling.
My mother told me: "amateur sports is always more entertaining, because the athletes have no contracts, and nothing to lose." My brother turned his nose up at NBA basketball, but commandeered the television when March Madnes came along.
Of course, sports isn't a perfect analogy anymore, because the amateur sports is often done because there is hope of a scout watching.
I need to be reminded of the beauty of the ordinary. I like ordinary folks. And I pray to be content in my ordinariness, because even in Christian circles, there is such a push for people to become well-known or famous. What I've been doing lately as I read blogs, is reading ones written by those who may not have a large audience. I can tell you this: the "big" names aren't the only ones with profund words and solid doctrine.
When we live the ordinary, recognizing our calling before God, in relationship with Christ, the ordinary is full of splendor. Take pleasure in the ordinary today.
Our church plays in a baseball league with other churches in our community. Enough people are interested that we have two teams, originally named "A" and "B." In addition to meeting other teams, A and B play against each other in the spirit of healthy competition. Tonight, they are playing a memorial baseball game in memory of a wonderful man who died in 2007, and who loved baseball.
Our friend Rick was diagnosed in 1992 with leukemia. He fought against it, through bone marrow transplants, chemotherapy treatments, illnesses, lung infections, and the usual array of what comes with such a condition. On more than one occasion, he hovered close to the death, and the church held its breath, waiting for the worst, only to rejoice the next day, hearing he had once again recovered. What ultimately killed him was pulmonary fibrosis. He had a lung transplant which ultimately caused his death. I remember the night he got the call for the transplant. We were at the church, and we heard the news. He was exuberant as he always was, even carrying around his portable oxygen tank. He died the week after.
While he was cancer free, he lost his son in a tragic car accident on Easter Sunday night. His son was 17 years old. Early in his marriage, he and his wife lost a child in infancy. Their youngest daughter has permanent learning challenges. He was one of the happiest men I've met, and his wife continues to be one of the most joyful women I know.
Of course the question of "why" came up. Why did this family suffer so? Why did this family experience multiple tragedies and struggles? Rick said, "Because God knows we can handle them."
This was a man who understood our calling before God. During the many years that Rick dealt with illness, treatment and regular life, there was never any sense from him or his family that they were more "special" than anyone else. They never came across as deserving more grace and mercy than anyone else. They didn't capitalize on their difficulties, expecting more leeway than anyone else. He lived, and his family continues to live, in light of the fact that God called them to salvation through Christ. End of story.
The truth is that to understand why God allows hard things lies in the ability to understand who He is; his character. The key doesn't lie in how to be moral like Jesus was, or to emulate Jesus. It's to understand the sovereign character of God. If we try to live our lives, "as Jesus lived," mirroring his conduct alone, divorced from understanding who God is, we won't handle tragedy like Rick and his family. No, we may rail against it, instead.
The anniversary of his death passed by this past March. I didn't actually remember until later in the week when I looked at the calendar. I'm thinking of him today, and remember what a lively, funny, energetic man of God he was. And I'm praying for his family that they continue to live a life glorifying God.
Last Friday, while I was in a waiting room, as is typical of our world today, my inactivity got the better of me and I checked Twitter on my phone. I forgot to pack my Kindle, so this was what I did. The Gospel Coalition Conference was going on and followers were tweeting highlights. It made me wish I was at home listening in live instead of hanging out in the passport office. Meanwhile, I have some lectures that I began listening to last week which Rebecca tipped me off to. I should listen to those first. And then, again, as I checked my Google reader, I saw yet more links and recommendations. I was kind of overwhelmed by all this. I'm over 45, so my brain isn't always cooking on four burners.
Once upon a time, when I was homeschooling, I frequented the message boards at The Well-Trained Mind. The boards were different back then. This was in the day and age when there were fewer posters there, the good old days. I would look at the boards every morning, and inevitably I would suffer from curriculum envy. What she is using sounds so good! Oh, that might make things easier for math! You know the drill if you homeschool. It must be worse now, because options continue to grow in homeschooling. That resulted in me buying a lot of unused material. I ultimately sold it to someone else, but occasionally, changing things up was not always good. At times, it was; at others, not so good. We love to have choice.
I confess to having an addiction to choice. Sometimes, I think having no choice is easier. Every day, books are recommended, and I buy them because they look good and everyone is recommending them. I have a choice to buy or not to buy. So many things compete for my attention. In reality, some of the best book purchases I have made have come from the footnotes of a book I'm currently reading, or simply combing the online booksellers like WTS Books, Mongergism, or Reformation Heritage books. All of those places reveal the myriad of choices available.
Os Guinness, in his book The Call, in a chapter called "A Focused Life," discusses the effects of too much choice and change:
This intensification of choice and change has effects on many levels. The heightened awareness of the presence of others increases our awareness of possibilities for ourselves. Their cuisines, their customs, their convictions can become our choices, our options, our possibilities. Life has become a smorgasbord with an endless array of dishes. And more important still, choice is no longer just a state of mind. Choice has become a value, a priority, a right. To be modern is to be addicted to choice and change..
He then points out some of the downfall to this:
... the increase in choice and change leads to a decrease in commitment and continuity - to everyone and everything... choice and change lead quickly to a sense of fragmentation, saturation, and overload. In the modern world, there are simply too many choices, too many people to relate to, too much to do, too much to see, too much to read, too much to catch up and follow, too much to buy.
Guinness sees calling as that which will direct our choices. We will make our decisions not on a whim, but because of our calling.
But ultimately only one thing can conquer choice - being chosen. Thus, for followers of Christ, calling neutralizes the fundamental poison of choice in modern life.
He discusses how calling provides a "story line" for our lives. What choices will we make to best serve that storyline? What choices will ensure that the choices don't become the focus, but rather the ultimate call of God on our lives?
I think I need to be more focused on what I'm reading and listening to. Because I'm about to have more time on my hands (thus, free to choose even more) I want to be discerning about what I choose. I can't read everything; I can't listen to everything. The "must read!" cry that I hear repeated over and over again needs to play less loudly in my ears. I need to pick those things which will keep me focused on my particular calling at any given time. That means cutting things out and perhaps not reading others. It perhaps means reading fewer blogs posts; reading the ones which will provide the strongest foundation, the most long-term edification.
Sometimes, our choices reflect a desire not to be out of the loop. We want to be in the know, to stand around the cyber watercooler, as it were, and not feel like a dunce.
Sometimes, it's better to be a dunce and know that our choices reflect the best thing for us. I want to recover from my addicition to choice, but I know it will take work.
When I was a teenager, I almost became a Mormon. It was not one of the high points of my relationship with my parents, but in God's sovereign plan for my life, it was something that ultimately drove me to Christ.
After my decision to abandon the Latter Day Saints, my parents wisely sent me away for de-programming. I needed to have that; I was very confused. My parents knew that my decision to walk away would result in the well-meaning visits of folks from the Mormons who were understandably stymied at my ninth-hour decision not to join their ranks.
My mom sent me to my father's childhood home, the farm where he grew up and which is owned by his brother, now slowly being handed over to my cousin. This farm was pretty much the only vacation destination we had growing up, and we spent a lot of time there. I always liked being there, but after this visit, my relationship with my aunt became very close. When I was three years old and she married my uncle, I was reported to have said to her upon introduction, "I don't like you." Nice way to be welcomed into the family. That didn't last long, and over the years, she has become a second mother to me. My daughter is named after her.
After that ten days of post-Mormon recovery, I began spending even more time there. My aunt's motto is "many hands make light work," and I simply worked alongside her. We worked in the garden, cooked, baked, did canning and preserving, knitted, sewed, cross-stitched, quilted, fed cattle, drove tractors, and even cleared a section of bush so she could build a greenhouse. I learned how to work, use my time wisely, and how to enjoy simple things like sitting in the cool of the house, shelling peas while enjoying our iced tea, listening to classical music.
When I got married, I determined that I would continue the pursuit of these domestic joys that I had come to love. I purchased all I needed to do my own canning and preserving, and I did those things. At one time, we only ate home made bread. I would make five loaves and put them in the freezer. Then, of course, with three children, time became a factor. I don't know how women of the past, with eight or more children, managed to supply bread for all. Apparently, my grandmother never bought bread at the store.
I was reminded how much I enjoy all of these things when recently I decided to pick up a quilt I began many years ago. Quilting is really enjoyable during lazy, hot summer afternoons. There is something soothing about the rhythm of the hand sewing (no, I do not machine quilt!) that fosters thought and contemplation. It has been nice spending an hour in the afternoons over the past while.
Strawberries are in season here in Ontario, and I needed some for a dessert. I bought a whole flat, determined that I would make jam this year. On Monday and Tuesday morning, there I was sterilizing items, stirring the bubbling fruit, sealing the jars. When it was all done, I enjoyed the fruit of my labour, feeling a rush of warm familiarity steal over me. As the sweet aroma from those berries floated up to my face, I thought about the girl who first learned to love doing this. Whatever happened to her? Why don't I see her as much as I used to? She loved the feeling of having produced something tangible. She got so much satisfaction from working with her hands. I asked myself, "Why don't I do these things like I used to?"
Blogging. In a word, that is where a good deal of my spare time has gone these past seven years. I've always read a lot and always written, but blogging consumes my time in a different way. Blogging is not just about writing; it's about interaction, information, opinions, controversy, and often, conflict. Unless you're the kind of blogger who posts but doesn't allow comments, and never reads another blog, you will occasionally find yourself giving up fairly large chunks of time. Often, we become so consumed by the virtual world it will suffocate us. I enjoy blogging, and I don't see myself quitting any time soon; but there is life out there.
There is jam to be made, photographs to be taken, quilts to be finished, afghans to be knitted, and maybe this year, pickles to be made. And those things are still important to me. If the Lord blesses me with grandchildren, I want to be the kind of grandma who still does those things, whose grandchildren get fresh baking, homemade jam, and a quilt for a gift. Writing is still really important; for me, to write is to think. And blogging is an easy venue for someone who isn't a "professional" or a "real" writer. No, I can't see stopping anytime soon. But there is life out there. I am going to live it.