What IS My Calling? HOW Do I Find Out+Know For Sure?

(Thanks to Today's Christian Woman, running this article today. Here's the first page.  Please follow the link to finish! And spread the Good News, if you will!)   

 I’m standing on the beach, surrounded by fishing nets and rotting jellyfish. My hands are cramping after three days of morning-until-night mending net this week, which includes yanking the gloppy jellyfish from the web.

 I’m happy to be working with my husband and sons, but I’m ready for a rescue. I’m ready for Jesus to come strolling along our Alaskan beach like he did the shores of Galilee with this simple deliverance to those fishermen, “Come, follow me!”

And why not? Jesus called those fishermen away from their nets to a higher pursuit, “go and be catchers of men.” Of course they said yes! Who wouldn’t ditch the fish for souls instead? But while I’m on board to jump ship and drop the nets, especially this week, I am troubled as well. Christ’s words seem to imply a world divided into flesh and spirit, into sacred and secular. And we know that first call was amplified in Jesus’ final charge before his ascent to heaven, that we’re to “go out into all the world, baptizing and making disciples of every nation.”  I remember pondering this years earlier, when immersed in another kind of dirty work: changing diapers, hauling baskets of molding laundry, scraping dried food under the high chair. 

If Jesus called the fishermen-disciples away from their mundane labors toward a higher calling, what about the rest of us, armpits deep in daily sludge? Surely Jesus is calling us to more! Surely we are doing lesser work than those in ‘full-time Christian service” who are living extraordinary make-a-difference lives!

I hear this struggle from so many around me. A middle-aged friend who teaches health at a Christian high school confides in me one night that she’s not doing enough for God. She is thinking she’s being called to resign to begin a ministry for abused women in Mexico. A neighbor making dinner for her large family hears the evening news, sees the refugees and feels like she is wasting her life in floor polish and toilet bowl cleaner. Another friend who homeschools her four children questions this “calling,” wondering if God is asking her to serve abroad somewhere. 

 It’s little wonder we wrestle over this. For believers, “Calling” is serious business. The word itself comes from the Latin vocatio, from which we get our word “vocation,” and the Greek kaleo, both meaning literally, simply, “to call.” We use the term meaning more than a strong pull toward a particular line of work or activity, as it’s often used in a non-religious context. We believe the caller is God himself and that the one who is “called” is chosen particularly for nothing less than God-appointed work.   

We join a long history of angst and confusion over calling, fed in part by these very gospel passages, and, fed as well by the Church, both Catholic and Protestant. Through the centuries, both often created a social hierarchy with the clergy on top and the commoners who made bricks, milked cows, mucked stalls on the bottom. Evangelicals have played their part as well. Those who join the clergy or become missionaries or in some way enter “full-time Christian service” are clearly doing more for the kingdom than the rest of us going about our simple daily commerce.  

Or Not?? I think you'll find clarity and hope as the essay continues  here, at Today's Christian Woman.

Thank you for being here! Coming next: Scenes from our local production of "Tarzan" in which I play ever-so-apishly, a primate. In the jungle. In costume, yes, walking on my knuckles. I'm SURE there's something here of value to our spirits and lives. And there is. 

Lord, Have (No) Mercy upon ISIS!!??

Yes, I must write on this too. Please read one more piece on this event. 

I spent much of last night following the reportage of ISIS over the last few months. Unspeakable cruelties, against women, children, fathers, girls, boys. Against Yazidis, Christians, other Muslims. I felt sick, angry. I felt hatred. I did not know what to say except

Lord have mercy, have mercy .  . .

But----NO! In my next breath, No mercy. Lord have NO mercy on this evil! Do something! Yes, Lord, have NO mercy and DO something!

Such challenges never go unanswered, it seems. In my gospel readings, I realized the Hebrew people in Jesus' day felt the same. The injustices and unspeakable cruelties against them! They wanted what we want still and now----a Winning God. 
 A triumphant God, an arm-raised victory-fisted God!!

And this is just who they got! The Messiah they were waiting for, look who He chose! He didn't go to the seats of power; he went straight to the poor, the hungry, the pathetic, the unworthy, the victims.

And there it happened: Healings of every sickness. The dead raised to happy life. Massive feedings from a little lunch. Demons screaming out. The blasting wind and sinking waves scolded into peace. . And finally they got it, these men trailing behind his cloak, watching everyone who touched it get healed. 

"Who do you say that I am?" he asks them.

 Peter answers, knowing for the first time the truth of his own words, "You are the Christ."

Finally, after so many head-spinning victories and miracles, Peter sees him for who He is. 

He is THE CHRIST, the anointed one! They know, finally! What can't this man-God do?? He has done all things well, healed every disease. There is nothing, no demon, no force, no wind, no Pharisee that can take Him down, this Christ!

There He is. I want THIS God, this two-fisted, truth-tongued, all-healing God, who will vanquish all His enemies!

But then, what does Jesus the Christ, the anointed one do, immediately upon that recognition, those words? Listen again:

Peter: "You are THE Christ."

"And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things . … and be rejected . . . and be killed . . . 

Do you hear this? Can we hear this through the ears of those men? Now that you know who I am---finally (O ye of so-little faith!)----this is the kind of Who-I-Am I am. I am the Christ, the anointed one who will suffer and be beaten and will die. 

No! No! No! Not THAT kind of CHRIST! We want the Winning God, the Victory God, the Vanquishing God! 

This is where Peter rebukes Jesus, saying, Never Lord!

And Jesus sees Satan in Peter's human words, which would have been our words. 

But of course, Jesus IS the winning God, the victorious God, the Everything-Good God who accomplishes all this with the greatest display of power ever: the power to lay down his life. The power to suffer and die. For us.  For evil. For sickness. For his friends. Yes, for his enemies. 

And He gives us the power to lay down our lives. Even before the knife, kneeling by the Mediterranean Sea, moments before death. Those men, speaking the name of Jesus until they could not . . . .

ISIS believes they have destroyed these men. ISIS believes they have proven the strength and superior power of Islam over "the nations of the cross." They could not be more wrong. In every act of brutality and murder, ISIS proves their weakness, their evil, their own already-destroyed hearts. 
And the ones they kill, attest to the victory of a suffering Christ who lay down his life that we may also lay down ours. 

And finally, these men are not dead, but living still. 

Lord have mercy? 
He already has. In so many ways.
In mostly Muslim Egypt, because of these murders, there is an unprecedented openness and sympathy to the Coptic Christians. 1.65 million tracts have been printed and distributed with Bible verses about blessing in the midst of suffering. And this poignant, powerful poem in colloquial Arabic as well:

Two Rows by the Sea

Who fears the other?

The row in orange, watching

paradise open?

Or the row in black, with minds

evil and broken?

(for more on this, see CT's fascinating coverage here)

I believe there will be much fruit around the world from the words on those pages, from the blood of those men. (Even if the photos were photoshopped and they were not killed "by the sea" but in some studio. No matter.)

Lord have mercy?  

He already has.  The poem reminds us how.

Because of His mercy, we're freed from 

the row we were standing in, the row 

 in black, knives in hand, 

     "with minds 

                  evil and broken."

Because of His mercy, we ask now 

that we too would be given 

 the courage, the faith, the love

to kneel in the sand in orange,

before those who hate us,

                 paradise open,"

and whispering, 

with our last breath

the name that can save them too,


Lord, have mercy. 

He already has.

20 Photos + Videos to Make Us Well, Stop Time + Beat Our Narcissism

As I begin this, I'm sick in bed. And I'm lonely enough to greet even this fly with joy. 

The weather is not helping. It's blowing 50 mph and the sky is draining all the rain that should be falling on California and Texas instead of here. We're drowning in precip here, day and week after week. My bedroom windows are bowing under its galing breath. I am under siege, my bed just two feet from this window. (Mind you, this is inside. Not possible to film outside today.) 


The forecast---mostly the same for the next few days. (And, off and on for the rest of winter, which lasts until May. But all of you on the East Coast must forgive my narcissistic complaints. You're huddling under -30 temps and 5 feet of snow---so don't pity me for a second. )

          But, despite the despair some of us surely feel, there is awe in all of this, too.  We need awe desperately. A number of researchers have studied awe recently, and all reports verify something we've all experienced: Awe stops time and makes us better people. More specifically, events and moments that inspire awe  increase our perception of our available time. Our schedules halt before a blood-red moon. As we lose ourselves in the march of an ant or the shooting of a star, we are humbled to our own true size and significance.   Such moments reduce our irritability and increase our empathy for others. We are more likely to feel connected to others. We are more likely to help those in need.
(More here. )

         I felt it this week, when I glanced up over my house, how my heart slowed enough to squish out of my chest and launch toward that moon! Then I brought my sons out of the house to see it with me. 

              Everywhere you can find this. Look outside your own window. And look here, at the calving of  three miles of glacier---the largest calving ever filmed. Take a deep breath before you start:

           And here, these insects at our feet we take no notice of except to kill. Here is how the early morning dew dresses them in jewels!


           We need awe like we need oxygen, like we need God himself. Because it is awe that leads us to Him. It is awe that finally shakes us loose from our stranglehold on the clock, and our stranglehold on our own pitiable selves. We are indeed shrinking our already small selves with our narcissism and self-absorption. Our children measure alarmingly low levels of empathy and sky-high levels of self-focus. 

We need them to see dragonflies, sun dogs, a blade of grass, volcanoes (see this incredible time-lapse of an eruption)

Our task--for them, for ourselves, for the sake of all the world---is to awaken to the world. The self will begin to find its proper place when we swivel our eyes to the window. Give your child--and yourself---a good camera, a microscope, binoculars. Start watching. 

Here, from my window and my lens, glimpses from my own gallery of awe:

           And if you have no camera---others do. A new online journal  Behemoth (from the amazing people at Christianity Today) exists just for this, to bring us beauty and awe. It's cost? 1.99 a month.      

Maybe start here:  Behemoth's links to Wonder on the Web


        By the time I finish writing this (the next day), the clouds have broken for a moment. I look from my bed and aim my camera to the waters out my window and see the ferry, struggling through massive seas. 


And it is working already. I am wonderstruck. Time slows as I watch. And I am full of empathy for my fellow Kodiakans on board---15 hours of gut-wrenching seasickness. I say a prayer for them . . . 

And I know it is true. 

Awe is our true oxygen. 

Breathe deeply. Open your eyes. 

Lose yourself.

Gain the world.

Grow toward others.

Glimpse the God who loves it all.

(Stellar explosion photographed by the Hubble telescope)

And-----begin your own gallery of Awe.