A Special Invitation- April 1st Event

A Special Invitation


Is There A Calling in This Career?

April 1st / 7:30-9:00pm / Bellevue Presbyterian Church

Upper Campus UC-303

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How can we hear God’s call in our career?

You’re invited to a rich evening of discussion on the topics of faith and work, calling and career.

Kate Harris is a nationally-recognized speaker on the topics of faith, work, and vocation. She will be speaking on how God engages and interacts with us at work, and how we can have a deeper sense of calling, in our daily work.

We invite you to come and join us for this wonderful evening of conversation and learning.

The event is hosted by Cascade Fellows and is sponsored by Bellevue Presbyterian Church’s Faith+Work+Culture Ministry. There is no cost or registration. All are welcome!

Invite friends via Facebook.

 

More on Kate Harris.  Kate Harris is a nationally-recognized speaker on the topics of faith, work, and vocation. Her new book Wonder Women explores the challenges of career, calling, and family life. Kate started her career working for Chuck Colson and The Wilberforce Forum on several human rights policy initiatives and then spent several years working on Capitol Hill for U. S. Senate leadership and helped to lead the vocational ministry Faith & Law. In 2007, she left Capitol Hill to help start The Wedgwood Circle, an angel investment network to fund art that lifts up the good, true, and beautiful. In 2008, her family moved to England for her husband to pursue his graduate degree where, when not busy caring for their young children, Kate worked part-time to lead business development for a boutique project management firm. She also worked on a handful of special projects for the global consulting firm Oxford Analytica. After returning to the DC area, Kate joined staff of the Washington Institute for Faith, Vocation, and Culture as a writer in 2010. She was the director of the institute from 2011-2015. Kate graduated from the University of Colorado at Boulder with a B. S. in Journalism and B. A. in Political Science. She is wife to a very good man and mother to their four young children.

“Is There A Calling in This Career?”

Kate Harris

April 1st / 7:30-9:00pm 

Bellevue Presbyterian Church/ Upper Campus UC-303

No RSVP / cascadia@fuller.edu

Three Dimensional Discipleship

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We are three dimensional beings. When we flatten that dimensionality – say, for example, in a photograph – something important is lost. We’ve all seen cardboard cut-out pictures of people. No matter how realistic the picture, it’s easy to distinguish the real person from the façade. So it is with our discipleship.

Human beings are made to love God and neighbor in the full dimensionality of their being. We are to do so with a keen mind, a passionate heart and a courageous will. These three dimensions – mind, heart and will – are hard to engage in an integrated way. It is easy to focus on one or even two of the dimensions and neglect the other(s).

Any one or two dimensions alone results in a distortion – a caricature – of our discipleship. A passionate heart and a courageous will without a keen mind becomes religious fanaticism.   A keen mind and a courageous will without a passionate heart becomes manipulative orthodoxy. A keen mind and a passionate heart without a courageous will becomes impotent idealism.

Reading Augustine’s Confessions, I’m reminded it is possible to engage all three dimensions simultaneously in our discipleship. Augustine modeled, however imperfectly, someone who wrestled with loving God and neighbor with all his heart, mind and will in the context of his work. His example encourages me to do the same.

Marked By Ashes: An Ash Wednesday Prayer for Work

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Photo Credit: creationswap.com

Marked by Ashes  By Walter Brueggemann

Ruler of the Night, Guarantor of the day . . .
This day — a gift from you.
This day — like none other you have ever given, or we have ever received.
This Wednesday dazzles us with gift and newness and possibility.
This Wednesday burdens us with the tasks of the day, for we are already halfway home
halfway back to committees and memos,
halfway back to calls and appointments,
halfway on to next Sunday,
halfway back, half frazzled, half expectant,
half turned toward you, half rather not.

This Wednesday is a long way from Ash Wednesday,
but all our Wednesdays are marked by ashes —
we begin this day with that taste of ash in our mouth:
of failed hope and broken promises,
of forgotten children and frightened women,
we ourselves are ashes to ashes, dust to dust;
we can taste our mortality as we roll the ash around on our tongues.

We are able to ponder our ashness with
some confidence, only because our every Wednesday of ashes
anticipates your Easter victory over that dry, flaky taste of death.

On this Wednesday, we submit our ashen way to you —
you Easter parade of newness.
Before the sun sets, take our Wednesday and Easter us,
Easter us to joy and energy and courage and freedom;
Easter us that we may be fearless for your truth.
Come here and Easter our Wednesday with
mercy and justice and peace and generosity.

We pray as we wait for the Risen One who comes soon.

Prayers for a Privileged People (Nashville: Abingdon, 2008), pp. 27-28.

In Augustine’s Confessions, Book #2, Augustine finds that ‘recalling (his) wicked ways’ to God actually brings freedom and hope. As we lament as Christian workers the ways in which we have failed, the things we have left undone, the ways we wronged our co-workers, and the sin we are implicated into as people of the fall, we too may find the God of great grace who took on our sin, so as to embrace us. We need to ‘taste the ashes in our mouth,’ as Brueggemann states above, in order to be ‘Easter-ed into joy and energy and freedom and courage.’

In light of this, how could Ash Wednesday’s lament and confession change the ways you work? What might you confess and lament about your work to God? How might God want to meet you in this?

Walking, Art-Making, and Seeing God

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In the text Art and Soul, the authors devote a chapter to ways of seeing. They conclude by encouraging readers to develop a “Christian” way of seeing, as it pertains to understanding and participating in culture. This pursuit of seeing requires disciplines through which we achieve a deep and meaningful engagement with life. In engaging life this way, we find ourselves “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”[1] This seems like a worthy pursuit, but I find myself asking: How does one use cultivated seeing as a means be “filled to the measure” of God? What are the units of measurement? And further, how do I know if I’m full or being filled?

If “seeing” is to be linked to “fullness”, then this kind of seeing must involve more than just use of the eyes. To “taste and see that the Lord is good” requires multiple senses engaged in a practice of curiosity and gratefulness for the everyday, in which the risen Christ is incarnated. So how do I reorient myself to the mundane, ordinary circumstances of my life, so that I approach them fully awake, fully present, and ready to receive God in it and not in spite of it?

The best way I have found to do this is to go for walks. As the Apostle Paul writes, “If we live in the Spirit, then let us also walk by the Spirit.”[2] I have found Paul’s metaphor not to just be a metaphor, but also a practical encouragement. Walking gets me moving – getting from point A to point B. Movement is also occurring in between point A and point B – inside the path of a line. I do a lot of thinking while walking – about conversations I’ve had with others, things I’ve read, errands that need running, problems that needs solving. So walking is not just physically moving from place to place, but moving mentally and soulfully from place to place as well. In the walk, I am drawing lines between physical spaces, everyday spaces, and spiritual spaces, one step at a time.

A walk is, at its essence, movement. You place one foot in front of your body, shift your weight onto that foot, then bring the rear foot forward until it is placed in the front position. Thus your legs have moved, but by a single step your body has moved from one physical space to another. You find your body occupying a new space. Repeat this process a few thousand times in rapid succession, and your body is now in a very different space, perhaps another neighborhood or on the other side of a mountain.

You have moved. You can tell because everything looks different. The houses are different, the street numbers have changed, there is an Ethiopian restaurant in front of you instead of a Greek one. The other side of the mountain looks very different. Anyone who has hiked the Wonderland trail around Mt Rainier has witnessed this phenomenon – though “The Mountain” may be ever-present, from your rapidly changing viewpoint the position of glaciers move, or Little Tahoma is now on the right side instead of the left. You have moved, and your perspective has changed.

Our experience walking is a lot like how much of life is experienced. My relationship to my wife, or to my son, or to a friend, does not remain static over time. Rather it changes as we experience life together, learn about one another, and grow into shared wisdom. I think relationship with God must work similarly; that is if it is truly to be a relationship and not a set of rules. What is a relationship, but to consider oneself in relation to someone else or some other object, with the in-between being a physical position, a feeling, an understanding, a form of communication, or an action. These, for example, can be attraction or avoidance, love or loathing, excitement or indifference. Relationships are processes of movement.

So walking draws me out of the crusted shell of sedentary distraction and back into freer movement with the day. It reunites me with the relationships all around me, and I sense again a position within of the cosmos, a tiny particle in orchestra with the rising and setting of the sun, the comings and goings of others, the flittering of birds, the cacophony of automobiles. God, in the form of the Spirit, becomes present in the in-betweens. Becoming mindful of these in-betweens generates a form of seeing for me, which might be understood as fully existing; as my legs slide in sync across pavement, my lungs fill to that rhythm, and the chatterbox that is my inner monologue quiets. I enter a process of movement in which my own body, and the spaces it occupies, somehow makes sense.

John Berger wondered where heaven may lie in relation to us. Is God far away in the clouds, or across the galaxy? His conclusion was that no, heaven is not far away, but heaven is actually “infinitely close.” He says, “There is nothing baroque about it, no swirling infinite space or stunning foreshortening. To find it – if one had the grace – it would only be necessary to lift up something as small and at hand as a pebble or a salt-shaker on the table.”[3] The small and mundane point us to the way things are supposed to be, as God created them. Though heaven is certainly not found in and of these things, these things are arrows pointing us to Jesus’ rule and reign, as they are to be, here and now.

God reveals himself to Elijah not in the noisy earthquake, nor in the devouring fire, but in the gentle whisper[4]. I believe gentle whispers can be discerned from pebbles and salt-shakers, from the leaf on the ground and the crack in the sidewalk. To taste and see God means to taste the beauty in the everyday, noticing and appreciating what’s under my own feet, what my eyes take in, what I hear, what I feel and what I think. Walking connects and reconnects me to these truths so central to our faith, and central to experiencing God as he is heaven, in the here and now.

My recent artworks consider these relationships, between the steps I take, the process of movement, and the listening to whispers, within the urban grid of the city. Walking becomes like writing or drawing. The actual ink or graphite drawings I make are documentations, or illuminations, of these walks. If the walk is the line being drawn or written, then instead of making a line, I illustrate the things around the line, those buildings, trees, and street intersections that appear in my visual halo. Making these drawings is a way of seeing these walks in a different way. I take every split second of what is seen on a walk, and present them all at once. They become like cartography of my own phenomenology, a roadmap of a practice of prayer.

The processes of walking, drawing, writing, and noticing equip me with some of the discipline, alertness, and play that Brand and Chaplin outline as necessary to “Christian” seeing. Not that art-making has any kind of exclusive domain over these, nor do I think walking universally acts as a magic key to unlocking spiritual transcendence.

Perhaps seeing means bringing my own self out of hiding (or sensory distraction), into the everyday presence of the invisible and seemingly silent, but ever-present God. For Paul’s journey on the road to Damascus, that meant the removal of sight,. Without his sight, Paul then knew that God had called him. Maybe I don’t walk to see God, so much as I walk that God would see me, that I might then know the meaning of the word blessed, and to see glimpses of God’s heavenly presence here. I’m coming to see that to know oneself blessed, then, may be the measurement of fullness all along.

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[1] Hilary Brand and Adrienne Chaplin, Art and Soul, pg. 109.

[2] Galatians 5:25

[3] John Berger, The Shape of a Pocket, pg. 11.

[4] 1 Kings 19

Special Invitation – Bellevue, May 28th

A Special Invitation


Callings and Careers: 

Making Sense of Who We Are and What We Do

 

 Dr. Steven Garber. 

Bellevue Presbyterian Church. 5/28/15. 7:00- 8:30pm. 

What is your calling? steven-garber (1)Where is your career taking you? You are invited for a rich evening of discussion on the intersection faith, career, and calling.

The evening will feature an opening address from Dr. Steven Garber, a nationally-recognized speaker and author on the topic of faith, work, and vocation. Dr. Garber’s latest book Visions of Vocation charts the ways in which ordinary people in a wide variety of careers seek to serve their neighbors and the kingdom of God in and through their work

Dr. Garber’s address will be followed by reflections from some of Seattle leading voices on the question of faith and work including:

–       Denise Daniels from Seattle Pacific University

–       Al Erisman from KIROS

–       Jessica Hsieh from Cascade Fellows.

–       Jon Sharpe from C3Leaders

This public event is hosted by Cascade Fellows and is sponsored by C3Leaders, KIROS, and Bellevue Presbyterian Church. There is no registration required and no cost for this event. All are welcome to join the conversation!

 

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Bel Pres

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Faithfulness Over Balance: When Your Various Vocations Collide

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It’s a tug of war, sometimes. It’s a juggling act other times. These various calls we have, at times, tend to be at odds with each other. The board meeting is during our son or daughter’s sports play offs. We are asked to serve at church, but have just gotten back into town after a long week of travelling for work. Spouses see each other late at night or early in the morning like ships passing – going through the highlight reel of the last few days only to return again to the fullness of life the next day.

We all have these various vocations we are called into, to embody in love. These are the places we’re called to serve, the people we are to influence and be influenced by, the spaces where God places us to experience him, and worship him for all his goodness. But what happens when these callings are seemingly in opposition to each other? What happens when what we’re called to doesn’t seem to fit with our other callings?

Some have gone about talking about this through the language of work/life or work/family balance. I’m not sure that balance is a helpful word for the Christian. Balance ensues that all our time, our efforts, and our energy will be poured out in equal amounts, and that somehow we will reach a place where all these roles and calls are working in harmony with each other as a result of giving ourselves equally to them. One could chase after balance, could seek to find balance their whole lives, and never achieve it.

The language which may be more helpful to seek to embody is that of faithfulness. Asking not, how can I juggle or balance my various callings? But, how can I be faithful to God, as a reflection of his faithfulness to me, in the work God has called me to, in the passions he’s placed in my heart, in the church God has placed me in, in the family God has blessed me with, and in the friendships God has orchestrated in my life?

 

Faithfulness in our various callings can be embodied through honing in on several things.

  1. Recognize your first call is to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.

We each have been called out of our sin, our selfishness, our narcissism, and called into the self- sacrifice, love, and care of Jesus. Our primary calling is to enjoy, deepen, and embody the relationship that Jesus is cultivating in our lives with HIMSELF.

This will happen in and through your other vocations, certainly, but the call first and foremost for the Christian is to follow Jesus’ example of love, service, and building of God’s kingdom on the earth. All other callings must fit under this call to Jesus himself, or our lives will be out of faithful alignment with what God has in mind for us.

How are you answering the call of Jesus to follow him today? This week? This year?

 

  1. Vocations are seasonal.

We may be called to serve in a various workplace or industry for a time. For some this may be a long time, like those who work in a company for 25+ years. For others it may be a few months or years. However and whatever that season is in length, we are called to be faithful for the season.

Even the retiree who leaves after 25+ years will be called by God to another calling, even if their paid work experience is over. Every season of call, things look differently. While at the beginning of your career you may have had young kids, as you get into the middle or late part of life, those children will require less of you, and you will be released to serve (time wise) in different ways. While in the middle of your career you may be travelling a lot, later on you may be able to stay more centralized, opening up your life to new avenues in that time and space. What we are called is to, is to be faithful in the season God has us in.

Thinking seasonally about our vocations releases us to be present where we are. Thinking seasonally about our vocations also helps us narrow down what we are ACTUALLY called to, and not just what would just be a ‘good’ thing for us to do.

What does it look like for you to be faithful at work in this season? What does it look like for you to be faithful at church in this season? What does it look like to be faithful to your family, spouse, children, or friends during this season?

 

  1. Enlist help.

We can’t all do it all and have it all. This is a lie our culture has enticed us to believe. When we follow the call of Christ in faithfulness, he doesn’t ask us to do everything, but he does ask us to do some things well and in the spirit of faithfulness. This may mean that you need to ask for help in order to fulfill the call God has placed on your life.

This can be hard, but maybe thinking of it this way will help: Asking for help may allow someone else to fulfill one of his or her vocations. Serving you or your family may be a call God places on someone’s life. Someone may be gifted by God with the love of children and can faithfully serve him through loving your kids while you are working or serving the church or giving to your marriage. Someone may be gifted with the joy of making meals- feeding you or your family may be a practical way for someone to use their gifts, giving you the extra time you need to be faithful in the ways God is calling you. Someone may have expertise in an area that you are lacking in at work. Enlisting their help, support, or advice may enable you to work in your calling in a faithful way that you couldn’t have otherwise.

What do you need right now to faithfully fulfill the call God has placed on your life? Who can you enlist to help?

 

  1. Give up the ‘shoulds’ and discern what you are actually called to.

Sometimes our vocations collide because life has schedule conflicts. But other times our vocations collide because we have said yes to too many things. Where we are called, God provides for us to fulfill those callings. Where God doesn’t call, we may find ourselves striving to make things work or for the pieces to fit into holes they never were meant to fit into.

When we say yes to something, we are always saying no to something else. If you are finding yourself saying yes to things out of obligation rather than out of a sense of God’s call, this may be why your vocations are colliding. Doing something because you ‘should’ do it shouldn’t be confused with God calling you to do it. Discerning these things can be tricky, but if you are finding more conflicts in your schedule and you are having to say no to the things and the people you are called to first, maybe it’s time to take an inventory of your calls and see which are from God and which are being done out of sheer obligation or guilt.

What in your life do you feel you ‘should’ be doing? Is it bringing you a sense of God’s provision, peace and joy? Or is it a weight you’re trying to make fit into the rest of your life?

 

  1. Live joyfully within the constraints you’re given

Each season we are called to be faithful in will come with, what Kate Harris has aptly described as, constraints. We can’t do it all. We aren’t called to do it all. But when we accept the limitations of the season we are in, this frees us up to live in joyful presence of God and those he’s called us to.

Some may see constraints as something to overcome, something to break out of, and something that holds us back. But Harris describes constraints as boundaries that hold the capacity for us to be creative within. When we don’t have all the time in the world, we are more focused. When we know we won’t be with our kids or roommates or spouses the next day, due to work commitments, we are able to live within that constraint and be truly ‘with’ them today. When we know our limits we can delegate and call on other’s resources to collaborate on projects with. Constraints hold the power of God to release us to embody the love and grace of our Savior in specific, pointed, and placed ways.

What constraints do you have in this season? How are those helpful to you? How could they be transformed to become creative outlets for your faithfulness in vocation?

 

Thinking through, praying through, and talking through these things can clarify your calls in the current season you find yourself in; enabling you to live freely and embody the love of Christ with the endeavors and people God wants you to be present with- now.

What will help you clarify the most now?

A Workplace Prayer- A Benedicite for Human Work

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A Benedicite for Human Work by Jim Cotter and Paul Payton from

Out of Silence…Prayers Daily Round*

Let the sowers of seed bless you, great God, the gardeners and farmers sing your praise.

May the fishers and foresters bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Let the bread from grain bless you, great God, the wine from the grape sing your praise.

May the transformations from cooks bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Let the spinners and weavers bless you, great God, the designers of clothes sing your praise.

May the potters and silversmiths bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Let the sounds and silences of music bless you, great God, the great composers sing your praise.

May the improvisors of jazz bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Let the cellos and trumpets bless you, great God, the echoing horns sing your praise.

May the clarinets and pianos bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Let the actors and mime artists bless you, great God, the singers and musicians sing your praise.

May the dancers and clowns bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Let the novelists bless you, great God, the poets and critics sing your praise.

May the essayists and playwrights bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

Let the sculptor and scientists bless you, great God, the portrait painters and photographers sing your praise.

May the artists and architects bless you, Beloved, praise your name and glorify you forever.

 

* The Cascade Fellows are deeply grateful to Dr. Gideon Strauss for introducing us to this work in particular, and this body of work in general. The prayers offered in this book, based on the Psalms, have been embodied by him, and we continue to be moved by his faith and example to us.

Finding Meaning in All the Right Places

 

model-650791_1280“I really wish I could be involved in more meaningful work. You guys are doing great things.” I was sitting at happy hour across from a very talented fashion designer. She’d heard the kind of work my friend and I had been involved in. My work didn’t involve going to any country in Africa, which are 53 in total, by the way. But, in many ways, the company I worked for here in Seattle enables organizations to make strategic investments in projects making a difference in a number of countries in Africa.

This wasn’t the first time those two words were used synonymously. I’d heard “meaning” and “Africa” used this way, so many times, even if, for most people, “going to Africa”, means visiting one country. You’ve probably seen so many people talk with so much excitement about the opportunity they had to work with “poor” people in this and that village, and how much “meaning” they found.

I’m by no means discrediting those experiences. I grew up “poor” in Uganda, although I never felt poor until I went to school- but that’s a story for another day. Throughout my career, I’ve had the amazing opportunity to work in some of the most rural places, working with people living with and affected by HIV/AIDS. Most of my work has involved some form of advocacy for the poor and marginalized in Eastern Africa. I loved what I did, every single day of my work, knowing I was making a difference in the lives of real people. My work was meaningful, but to say, I found a sense of “meaning” in it would be to overly credit my work.

I think people find perspective in traveling to a different country and culture and yes, working with the poor. It allows us the opportunity to reflect on our own lives or even feel better about ourselves for doing something good. What we consider important suddenly becomes negligible in the face of the reality of others. And that’s a good thing. My outlook towards life has been shaped by these experiences, and I’m thankful for them. But “meaning” and “poor” are not prerequisites of each other.

Over the years, I worked with friends who never enjoyed working with the “poor” in rural areas. The emotional exhaustion quickly took a toll, and they couldn’t wait to leave and find something else, while I truly enjoyed that season of my life. But, our differing perspectives, didn’t make their work any less important.

What I found, though, was working with the “poor” did not answer my question for meaning. Instead, it gave me an opportunity to express what I know about whose I am. Kate Harris, during her talk at Bethany Community church recently said, ”Calling is about knowing whose we are and to whom we belong.” I found happiness in what I did, because I’d found a sense of meaning in knowing whose I am and to whom I belong; a sense of meaning that I’ll continue to discover for the rest of my life.

My career has changed over time. I currently work in management consulting, so far a way from my home in Uganda. Since my meaning in life is not derived from the work itself, I’ve come to see that for this season of my life, I can still take this same sense of purpose to my work.

I think this is the thread that runs through the Cascade Fellows program. Work is an expression of our worship, because all of life is a sacred act of worship. But, even if what we do changes, who we are and to whom we belong doesn’t. In all our endeavors, whether it ministry and service related, a work assignment or the ways in which we live out our relationships, whose we are and to whom we belong, namely Christ himself, doesn’t change. Christ is the one in whom we can find all meaning and purpose, and to whom we can offer ourselves fully for the sake of what he calls us to.

So next time you pack your bags to go to a developing country, let it be an opportunity to share the sense of meaning you feel in whatever you do. Or if you just want to find perspective, that’s okay too. If your calling is to work with the poor, that’s wonderful. But if, for this season, you are a stay at home mom, a fashion designer, or love technology, engineering or law, let the same sense of purpose you feel in knowing whose you are and to whom you belong, be expressed in what you do.

As I sat there across from that talented fashion designer who invoked these thoughts, I almost said, “join Cascade Fellows.” But then I remembered, I’m in Seattle, and I still didn’t know how to talk about God and purpose, without sounding awkward at happy hour. So I shared about my sister, a fashion designer, who knew what she wanted to do since she was young. My sister admires what I do, but has no desire or interest in doing any of it. With fashion, she can use her hands and creativity to make beautiful clothing, and that is no less meaningful than my work.

Though I didn’t say this to the wonderful woman at the happy hour, I wanted to: “Whatever may be your task, work at it heartily (from the soul), as [something done] for the Lord and not for men.” Colossians 3: 23, Amplified Bible

It seems to me, the task doesn’t give the man or woman meaning, but rather the man or woman gives the task, the job, the position, whatever it is, meaning.

 

 

 

 

 

The Fallacy of Being “Just”

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Our culture is competent to implement almost anything and imagine almost nothing.— Walter Brueggemann

About four years ago, I really disliked introductions. There was nothing wrong with the people whose hands I’d shake, though I dreaded the question they were sure to ask. What do you do? In answering honestly, my sense of identity and self became usurped by expectations and stereotypes that surrounded my new, post-college name: nice to meet you, I’m Just A Nanny. I used the word just subconsciously; it gave me freedom and space from reality, affirming to myself, more than others, that this kind of job was temporary, lesser-than, an in-between thing. There was hesitation in giving my professional vocation validity and respect, dignity and value, because I wasn’t sure it held any. Nannying didn’t correlate with my notions of success, identity, or professional aspiration. Nor did it occur to me in the early years of raising two children who were not my own that something great could come of a humbling vocation, and in getting out of my preconceived ideas of professional “success,” I was getting into the marrow of joy, life and work redefined.

• • •

Entering the post-college workplace as a full-time nanny, or more accurately, a single mom by day, was difficult. Other words that come to mind are ego-bruising, ego-crushing, dream-snuffing, and pity-inducing. In truth, raising children is not those things—it is actually far from it—but it can look that way. Any profession can look that way when reality does not match one’s ideology. Within the first year of introducing myself as I’m Just A Nanny, life had been reduced to tedious, purpose-lacking labor by fulfilling a role that had little to do with my English degree, let alone dreams. I craved the ideology of post-college success—an editorial position, business cards, all expenses paid trips—anything apart from actual life. Choosing to keep a firm grasp on this ideology was to reject reality, dread work, become entitled, and ultimately unhappy. Like C.S. Lewis writes in The Great Divorce, “There is always something they insist on keeping even at the price of misery. There is always something they prefer to joy—that is, to reality.”

When corporately employed friends described the global impact of their work, dialoguing with diplomats, or a youth-at-risk’s success story, I felt the smallness of my victories. Tallying the number of diapers changed, noses wiped, meals prepared, tantrums conquered, miles walked pushing the stroller, trips driven to preschool, shoes tied and stories read, I wondered what it all amounted to, what this had to do with me and the world’s real needs. How had work become so challenging, frustratingly selfless, socially isolating and fear-inducing? How had it become so removed from my post-college ideologies, that now, when I introduced myself, I couldn’t get away from pigeonholing my identity or emphasizing where I failed? I’m just a nanny. After all, I was magnificently qualified—overqualified! Just take a look at me on paper: focused student, active volunteer, teen mentor, campus leader, a stint at Oxford, and I even read an original poem aloud at a gathering of tweed-wearing English profs. How glorious! How employable!

How disillusioned and ideological.

• • •

After nearly four years of raising children, I now see what I missed at the outset: I stood as a human being with more potential than actualization, entangled with an ego unaware of the intensity at which it would be broken. Moving from college in sunny Los Angeles to Seattle with bills to pay, independence to defend, and options lacking, there was little choice. Uninterested in copywriting, the one apply-my-English-degree option, nannying fit the bill. Only temporarily of course. It wasn’t something professionals did. Strangers, too, were happy to verbalize this.

Flying home from Washington D.C. last year, a white-haired man with the United Nations emblem embroidered on his blue blazer sat next to me and began the small talk. After covering his childhood of traveling, the nine languages he spoke, and diplomatic adventures that polished his repute to a fine shine, he then asked the question.

“So what do you do?”

“I’m a full-time nanny,” I answered.

He stared, baffled. “You don’t want to be a nanny, do you?”

“Well, I really love the kids. They’re —”

“Love, that’s completely irrelevant,” he interjected. “What you should do, you wanna know? Find and marry a man who makes, eh, $200,000, enough to cover all the expenses. You can dedicate your time and efforts to charity work. You know can marry a poor man or a rich man. You have a choice. Really, I’m serious.”

I smiled, half amused, half angered, at the audacity of a stranger’s judgment, bewildered by the irony that a foreign diplomat could possess so little diplomacy. Mr. U.N. saw only the white collar, Ivy League ideology of making it, arriving, becoming someone—whatever that meant. Like Dr. Anthony Bradley highlighted in his talk on Economic Personalism, I was no longer human to Mr. U.N., merely a walking ideology, a lesser one at that. In addition to being I’m Just A Nanny, Mr. U.N. also christened me the Unapplied College Degree, You Fell Short of Real Success, Do Something With Your Life Already, Girl.

Nevertheless, Mr. U.N. had a point. I did have choices, and I was ready to move beyond the ones he proposed in order to seek a higher, far more substantial alternative. What if I exiled the notion of anything, anyone, being just—being another label subjugated to the bottom of the social status ladder? What if there was joy to be had, and immeasurable growth, valleys of humility and peaks of wisdom, laughter and life-altering experiences in raising two children that was unlike any other profession in the known universe? What if the two kids I now loved, eternally, were a meaningful career, and not a means to my end, but an end within themselves? What if nannying wasn’t just a stepping stone to a much improved future life, but held dignity, purpose, transformation, and worth all of its own? What if my being, and not just my job, held those things, too?

• • •

And so, from the trenches of a beaten ego striving for ideological success, rose something resembling a humbled spirit, a keener mind, a broader sense of humor, and a lasting revelation. Maybe God’s work in the world involved me, but wasn’t about me. To be so totally submersed in others’ needs at every given moment altered my beliefs regarding work, particularly service. Since choosing to live into my present vocation, no matter circumstance or duration, life and work are best summarized by the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore. “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. / I awoke and saw that life was service. / I acted and behold, service was joy.”

There was a time I thought meeting the world’s needs—my egotistical needs—amounted to skyscrapers, titles beneath my name, big cities, and college degrees to support the lifestyle. Otherwise, a voice whispered, what will you amount to? Today, I have plunked such questions like stones into a river, letting a stronger current of Truth carry them downstream. Now there are the verbs of Christ—go, be, know, come to me—and what inevitably follows—peace, joy, providence, reconciliation, freedom, a new way of seeing the world, life. How disheartening then, in light of this, to miss out on moments with two engaging, hilarious, compassionate kids because I insist my life must look different. I am finished with preferring my ideology of work over the joy of my reality. I am finished promoting the deceitful notion that work ought to serve my ego, and am ready to accept what is not always easy, though nonetheless true. Maybe in being stripped away from my insufficient ideologies, I can better recognize Christ’s imagining of my short human life.

Christ knows my circumstances and sorrows, my pain and frustration, the cultural pressures I sling on my back, my internal anxiety and the applesauce flung on my shirt. He sees my humanness laid bare, and in spite of it, through it, or even because of it, Christ is able to reveal dignity, identity and potential for my life—your life, too—in a way I cannot dream up. It’s more freeing than a week’s paid vacation, more multidimensional than a kaleidoscope, and as real as the wind that cannot be held, only experienced. He liberates all from the notion of just and infuses us with the Truth of who we are, where we are. Key moments in human history are made because of Christ’s intervention in our lives, when we reject the just of the world and embrace an otherworldly Truth.

When Frederick Douglass recognized the fallacy of the oppressive culture in which he lived and rejected the notion of being just a slave, a new man emerged, one who took great risks to fight the physical and ideological shackles of his time, changing not only the course of his life, but that of a nation. When marine biologist Rachel Carson penned The Sea Around Us and Silent Spring, highlighting our lack of stewardship for and destruction of nature in the ’50s and ’60s, Carson’s imagination, like Douglass’s, was alive. Not only did Carson reject the ideology of consumerism and America’s exploitation of natural resources, but she started a global conservation movement. Though I am neither a brilliant 19th century abolitionist like Douglass nor the mother of an environmental legacy like Carson, I am beginning to see life with renewed imagination. I am beginning to understand, and more significantly believe, that there is infinitely more to a human being than meets the eye, and that Christ, all along, has seen—sees—us this way. The question is no longer whether we have 20/20 vision, but whether we have the audacity of Christ, choosing to see through the life-giving lense of imagination. As Albert Einstein understood it, “Knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be.”

 

A Workplace Prayer- Take the Long View

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A Future Not Our Own

Bishop Ken Untener

It helps now and then to step back and take a long view.
The Kingdom is not only beyond our efforts,
it is beyond our vision.

We accomplish in our lifetime only a fraction
of the magnificent enterprise that is God’s work.

Nothing we do is complete, which is another way of
saying that the kingdom always lies beyond us.
No statement says all that could be said.

No prayer fully expresses our faith. No confession
brings perfection, no pastoral visit brings wholeness.
No program accomplishes the Church’s mission.
No set of goals and objectives include everything.

This is what we are about. We plant the seeds that one
day will grow. We water the seeds already planted
knowing that they hold future promise.

We lay foundations that will need further development.
We provide yeast that produces effects
far beyond our capabilities.

We cannot do everything, and there is a sense of
liberation in realizing this.
This enables us to do something, and to do it very well.
It may be incomplete, but it is a beginning,
a step along the way, an opportunity for the Lord’s
grace to enter and do the rest.

We may never see the end results, but that is the
difference between the master builder and the worker.

We are workers, not master builders, ministers, not
messiahs. We are prophets of a future not our own.

 

Taking this long view of work, reminds us the end of our work is not ourselves. Our work is ultimately not about us, but is rather our offering of worship back to God. Our work is ultimately about building the Kingdom, and working towards the flourishing of God’s world. This view frees us to do just as Bishop Ken Untener encourages us to do, plant the seeds, start small, begin where we are. As workers we are free to do what is right in front of us, trusting the Master Builder is at work using our small endeavors for the building of something much greater than our lives and our work.

What small thing is God calling you to do today to plant seeds? What work will you do today, with a long view of eternity in mind, as you do it? How are you viewing your work today- as about you or as an offering back to God in worship?