Thinking Out Loud

November 4, 2018

College and University Seniors Asking, “What’s Next?”

Filed under: Christianity, education — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:46 am

Three years ago I met with a woman who told me that her son started sending out resumés when he was only in his first year of a four year university program. He’d had offers already and still had years to go before graduation.

As it worked out, later in the same day I met with another woman whose son was on the precipice of college and doesn’t have a plan. He was definitely university material, but there wasn’t a clear vision of which school to pursue and what program to take.

In the latter case, we tend to expect that things will crystallize, at the very latest, by the end of the college experience. They may jump in with shaky feet, but they will tweak their course load as they experience academic disciplines that are foreign to the high school experience, and eventually come up with something that catapults them into the working world, or more specialized graduate school education.

But that scene doesn’t play out for everyone. What if you’re approaching the end of four years without a fixed plan? And what if you’re doing that surrounded by the type of people who were getting career offers while still an undergrad?

I follow the blog of such a university student. There’s a reference here to opportunity which may play a part. Or at least perceived opportunity. Some times it does seem as if all the breaks go to others.

James 4 - Do not say tomorrowHowever, I also recognize that there are times when the people who seem to have life all planned out need to remember to be humble, and perhaps write their plans in pencil, not in ink. (See the Bible passage at right.)

Anyway, here’s what the student in question wrote:

So, today I’ve been feeling pretty useless.

As my university life approaches its end, I’ve been starting to think about what I’m going to do afterwards and I’ve got nothing. It seems that everyone in my year is smarter than I am and more creative. Many of them are Type-A personalities that have a billion projects going on at once, many of them are far more traveled than I am, and on top of that most of them are prettier then me.

I was feeling this way, but then I started wondering about this idea of ‘useless’. Can a person be useless? I definitely feel like I’m falling behind everyone I know, but at the same time I can think of skills that I have and abilities that I can offer if given the chance. Or maybe I have to make those chances myself but I have no idea how to do that and I find the prospect overwhelming so let’s just forget that for now.

I find it helpful in these moments of self-doubt to know exactly what I’m doubting. It’s easy to say ‘I’m useless’ but if that’s not really how I feel then I’m not going to get anywhere. My problem isn’t feeling useless, it’s feeling unused. It’s a fear over lack of opportunity and an insecurity over a perceived lack of affirmation. I don’t feel like I can’t do anything, I feel like I haven’t done anything.

No one is useless. I don’t believe that anyone is made without something to offer. Sometimes we just don’t get the right chances, at least in a given moment. I’m sure there are things I could do and do amazingly but nobody’s asking for them right now.

If there’s anyone reading this who feels the same way, I hope that you stay strong and get your chance to shine. Correction: You already shine, I just hope that somebody notices. 

The last paragraph resonates with me on a personal basis. When I was at that stage of life, my role model was Joseph. Six years in the prison hoping somebody would notice; and especially that one person in particular would remember a promise. 

Did I ever have my resolution; a Joseph moment where I was reinstated or recognized or pressed into service somewhere? I’m not sure that it always works that way. I think we need to do everything that we can do before God will do everything he can do.

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September 2, 2018

A “Charmed Life” in Ministry

Filed under: Christianity — Tags: , , , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 12:34 pm

For us, many elements of our married life have involved struggle or challenge. While my basic thesis on this is that “everyone has something they’re dealing with;” every once in a while I run into people who seem to be enjoying “a charmed life” when it comes to their vocational ministry career or life in general.

The Free Dictionary notes:

To lead a life characterized or seemingly protected by marked good fortune or luck, without (or rarely) encountering trouble, danger, or misfortune. Celebrities seem to live a rather charmed life, with everything handed to them on a silver platter.

Merriam-Webster offers this definition:

life protected as if by magic charms : a life unusually unaffected by dangers and difficulties.

I write this because I encountered two of them so far this weekend. They weren’t totally flaunting it, but for them, life is good right now.

Perhaps for you it’s not ministry per se, but simply people in your sphere of influence — friends, neighbors, extended family, work colleagues, fellow students, etc. — for whom everything is going g-r-e-a-t.

Here are five things to remember:

▬ Some people have an advantage because of the struggle. The refinement they are experiencing and the learning they are gaining through the challenges makes them better people.

▬ Some people are just good at covering up. They’re the ones whose life on Facebook seems so ideal, and yet the truth of their situation is vastly different from the pictures and picture captions they post.

▬ The key in these moments is to not to succumb to envy or covetousness. It’s not about your life versus theirs but about how you respond to the perceived inequities. In fact, why are you comparing at all?

▬ Life is made up of seasons. Two-to-five years now could find that them and yourselves have actually trade places. Maybe longer. Maybe shorter.

▬ When it’s your turn to experience an outpouring of blessing, don’t allow it to let you become proud or arrogant. Approach the positive seasons of life with humility and thanksgiving.

 

March 27, 2018

Your Job is a Parable: Book Review

Filed under: books, Christianity, reviews — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:38 am

One of the best ways to learn how to identify the spokenness of your own job is to listen to what God might be saying through another person’s work

I have a thing for analogies.

I love it when someone can connect the dots between two things otherwise not connected. I try to file these away in my head for future use, and sometimes I am actually able to recall the right analogy and share it with the right person at the right time. Once or twice, I’ve been fortunate enough to create the parallel right on the spot.

My guess is that’s how it is with author, pastor and Ambrose University professor John Van Sloten. He seems to have the gift of analogy — admittedly not one of the spiritual gifts in scripture — that would allow him to make up instant analogies as needed. On second thought, that is the gift of teaching. And teaching through parables was the preferred form of Christ’s earthly ministry. My guess is that in our time, Jesus would be creating an abundance of modern day parables using everything from nature and agriculture (which he did) to sports, to driving a car, to scenes from movies, to technology.

Van Sloten’s parable-of-choice is vocation. In Every Job A Parable: What Wal-Mart Greets, Nurses and Astronauts Tell us About God (NavPress, 2017) no career on the socio-economic spectrum is insignificant, all have something to teach us about the ways of God. He even considered working a half day as a Wal-Mart greeter as research, but felt his friends might misunderstand! (For my UK readers, substitute Farmers in the subtitle for your edition.)

God is more present at your work than you know. And I think he wants you to know that. God wants you to see that he is there and that His Spirit is moving in you, through you, and all around you. God wants you to know him in all you do – including the third of your life that you spend working.

Not included in the book’s subtitle are a look at trash collectors, labor negotiators, photographers, electricians, recording artists, landlords, accountants, geophysicists and judges. But also be prepared to meet a crooked lawyer, immoral politician and an atheist writer. (There’s nearly 50 jobs covered.)

Sometimes an analogy is not entirely necessary. The chapter on first responders, ER nurses and physicians is a reminder that such people are, in those situations, the very hands and feet of Christ.

Reading this I was reminded of the title another book, published many years ago but also from NavPress, Your Work Matters to God. I couldn’t help but think how many people feel that their work doesn’t matter. That they’re merely trying to pay the bills so they can have some time or money left over to do work for God’s Kingdom. Van Sloten would argue that your ministry doesn’t begin at 5:00 PM or whenever you punch out at work, but rather your job is filled with ministry possibilities that can impact you, if not also the people around you. 

When Jesus wrapped a parable around a particular vocation, he was affirming the creational goodness of that job.

John Van Sloten, above, wrote another book with an intriguing title, The Day Metallica Came to Church.

There’s an interesting paradox at work as you read through. This is a book which, while structurally focused (i.e. the chapters by definition follow a specific format) it is also topically diverse (i.e. the range of colorful people interviewed provide a springboard to various broader discussions). If you’re the type of reader who likes books with pictures, this book, while it has no images or illustrations, is actually full of them.

Not everyone gets to see the fruit of their labors the same day. The example is of a scientist who publishes a research paper that is based on the work done years ago by others; and then she herself may not see the full application of her discovery.

We worship an eternal God whose plan is infinite, so for him to wait a few years or decades to manifest the meaning of our work shouldn’t be a big surprise. For God, there is a time and a purpose for everything. And sometimes his purpose, or the fullest sense of his purpose, shows up at a later time.

Each chapter also ends with a short focus section called Lectio Vocatio. It includes a number of different directives for post-chapter consideration. There’s also an index of the various vocations mentioned as well as links to YouTube sermons the author preached on various occupations, including some not in the book. 

This is the spirit-lifting book everyone needs after a hard day at the office. Or factory. Or rocket ship.

A copy of Every Job a Parable was provided by our friends at Graf-Martin Communications.
Print edition (North America) 9781631465482 | 208 pages | NavPress paperback
Print edition (UK) 9781473670662 | 208 pages | Hodder & Stoughton paperback
Watch a one-minute video trailer with the author.

September 14, 2017

Practical Advice for the Aspiring Actor, Poet, Playwright, Singer, Songwriter

Good news for the aspiring artist: You don’t have to starve. Furthermore, Jeff Goins believe there are four financial paths an artist can follow, with poverty and starvation being simply one option!

Real Artists Don’t Starve isn’t the usual type of book we cover here. Because I review books for HarperCollins Christian Publishing, it’s offered through their distribution system. I asked for a copy so I could read it for my son — an aspiring actor and writer — and then pass the copy on to him.

Author Jeff Goins is someone I ran into years ago in the Christian blog world, and he himself got some early mentoring from Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson. Some of you will recognize his name from the cover of the 2015 NIV Bible for Men, hence the inclusion here, but for the most part, he’s followed the trail to writing business and marketing titles, albeit from a Christian perspective. His catalog includes The In Between (Moody Press, 2013), The Art of Work (Thomas Nelson, 2015) and now Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Surviving in the New Creative Age.

The book is divided into three sections, (a) developing the right mind-set, (b) approaching and understanding the market, and (c) the thorny issue of money; getting paid. In each are four chapters and overall the book is well-crafted reading.

Goins relies heavily on both anecdotal accounts from artists alive and well and historical biographies of artists from past centuries, the latter mostly from the visual arts. (I would have liked more composers in the mix, but that’s my only criticism.) Some of this was accomplished through regular research, but he also was able to obtain a number of face-to-face interviews to give this project much original content.

So what’s his advice?

Some of it flies in the face of what the non-artist might conclude. Be original? Goins says it’s okay to steal, though he does qualify that. Be good at one thing? Goins says you need a diversified portfolio. Be generous just to get your art out there? Goins tells artists never to give their art away for free. Find a Patron? (Or Patreon, but he doesn’t say that!) Goins suggests it’s a great way to go, but you might have to be your own patron, at least at the start, earning income through regular work that supports you and your art.

In other words, this is realistic. But he also says that there are steps you can take so you don’t starve.

Unable to wait to send my son the book, I sent him a few excerpts:

Starving Artists wait for their Big Breaks.
Thriving Artists become apprentices in their crafts. (p.40)

[on Zach Prichard]  But let’s not misinterpret what happened here: talent did not do this; tenacity did. If you want to see your work succeed, you must be stubborn. You must be willing to keep going, even in the face of adversity. On the surface, stubbornness may look like a liability, but in creative work, it can be an asset.  (p. 65)

Once we have mastered our mind-sets, we must tackle the market. Here, we cross the threshold from being creative to doing creative work. This is the place where we become professionals and learn how this works in the real world. This is where we network and advertise our talents to the masses. And if we do this well, people will not just pay attention, they will also pay us. (p. 69)

All creative works need influencers who will vouch for them to an audience who doesn’t know them yet. But it is not enough to meet a patron; you must cultivate one… If you are going to create work that matters, you are going to need an advocate — a person who sees your potential and believes in your work. (p. 75)

We hold in our minds a certain picture of a professional artist as a lone creator, some solitary genius who executes a vision all by himself, slaving away at the work with only his thoughts and brilliance to keep him company. But this is a gross misunderstanding of how real artists get their work done. As creativity researcher Keith Sawyer says, “You can’t be creative alone. Isolated individuals are not creative. That’s not how creativity happens.” (p. 110)

Those are all from the first half. I don’t want to give too much away here. But the book is full of many, many nuggets of wisdom like this. And yes, I did finish the book, all 232 pages, even re-reading some sections at the beginning after turning the last page. (Sidebar: The way the bibliography was set up — almost conversationally — was absolutely brilliant.)

To be clear to regular readers here, this isn’t “Devotions for Artists.” Jeff Goins is a Christian writer, but the book is published under the Nelson Books imprint. Again, it doesn’t conform to my usual reading habits, but it was interesting and edgy enough to keep me turning pages. Reading it through my son’s eyes made a lot of difference as well.

 

September 27, 2016

The Music Store and the Career Path: An Analogy

Filed under: Christianity, parenting — Tags: , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 9:08 am

My son recently graduated from university and opted to move back to the city where the school is, in the hope that beginning a life there will be more fruitful than in our small town. The problem is, he graduated with two majors and a minor — writing, theater, and theology — and doesn’t really know which one to focus on.

Meanwhile we were at a music store on Saturday where I was wandering around from room and…well…I quickly wrote him this email, which I present to you relatively unedited.

guitar-inventory-2On Saturday afternoon we went back to Cosmo Music which is one of the largest musical instrument stores in the world.

We walked in the keyboard room first, and I thought, “I’m a keyboard player.” There were so many things I wanted to test out.

But then we wandered through the back and into the brass room. There was a baritone horn that reminded me so much of the one I played in the Junior Band at the church I attended all through my teens. I thought, “I’m a brass player.”

But then we went back toward the lobby and a kid was being fitted for a shoulder support for a violin, the type I should have had but never bought, and I thought, “I’m a string player.”

Next was the guitar room. I went to see what 12-strings they had; if any were like mine. “I’m a guitar player;” I told myself.

In the same area were the electric basses. Lots of five strings. Not cheap. Of course I thought, “I’m a bass player.” I want to try a 5-string sometime with a good amplifier.

But then your brother wanted to see the grand pianos upstairs. I used to work at Baldwin. They had high end instruments like this. Even the smell in the room was familiar. “I’m a piano player;” I figured I belonged in that room also.

On the way out, he asked about keyboard amps and we ended up in one of the little demo rooms. I was amazed at the things that came back to me being in that environment. I think I asked a few intelligent questions. Heck, “I’m a sound guy.”

And then it hit me.

The store was a microcosm of the choices you are now facing. You’re an actor. You’re a writer. You’re a student of philosophy and theology. There are so many choices.

But in the end, my walk around the store was a mile wide but only a few inches deep. I never really tried anything. We were there the better part of an hour and there was so much to see but I needed to just pick something and make that my focus; and if it turned out I sucked at 5-string bass, I could always come back another time and reacquaint myself with re-issued Arp Odyssey synthesizer in the keyboard room. But the arena of choices was so large that I was overwhelmed by it all, and more to the point I hadn’t gone with a specific purpose.

I know it’s hard to choose something at the expense of everything else but I would say this: Pick the most amazing thing that could happen, get on a bus, go to wherever it is people do that and walk in the door… That’s all.


Image: I believe this was taken at a guitar store in either Lansing, or Grand Rapids MI.

January 23, 2016

It’s Snowing

On New Year's Day 2009, Ippswich in Australia was expecting a high of +38C, which is about 100F. Meanwhile, back at home, my Weather Network indicator on my computer is showing that we’re heading to a low of -18C, which is about -1F. Their high temperature on a summer mid-afternoon Thursday would be occurring at the same time as my Wednesday mid-winter night. That's 101 degrees F difference. That day I was asking, "Are we even on the same planet?"

101 Degrees of Separation: On New Year’s Day 2009, Ippswich in Australia was expecting a high of +38C, which is about 100F. Meanwhile, back at home, my Weather Network indicator on my computer was showing that we were heading to a low of -18C, which is about -1F. The Aussies high temperature on a summer mid-afternoon Thursday would be occurring at the same time as my Wednesday mid-winter night. That’s 101 Fahrenheit degrees difference. That day I was asking, “Are we even on the same planet?”

A big shout-out to all of you trapped inside today by the blizzard.

Snow is something I know a little about.

I live in Canada. It snows here. But not always. And lately, not as severe as what parts of the U.S. have seen in recent years.

We drive carefully. I don’t have winter tires. I can’t afford to have one set of tires on the road let alone two. My wife’s car — my old one — has no anti-lock braking system. So we drive carefully.

When it does snow we don’t have a run on groceries, or snow shovels, or whatever it is that causes American grocery and hardware stores to be stripped bare. We already have food in the pantry. We already own shovels. Full disclosure, your average Canadian Home Depot is most likely to see a small run on rock salt in the event of an ice storm, or generators if the forecast is severe. But nothing like the inventory ransacking that takes place Stateside.

Mostly we stay home. No family event or business meeting or educational pursuit is worth getting into the type of accidents we see on the ABC or NBC evening news reports. Snow days for the kids. Closures for some retail stores and cancellation of some church meetings. But we don’t have closings or cancellations at anything close to the rate of our neighbors in Buffalo, New York.

I do remember one snowfall.

It was on January 23rd, several years ago.

It was the launch of my concert ministry organization, an outreach on the University of Toronto campus. The snow paralyzed the streets of the city and all of southern Ontario. Several youth groups had committed to attend, but hadn’t bought advance tickets. So we lost our proverbial shirts.

True, some people drove a great distance, and the concert went ahead, and it turned out the guy who drove the farthest was from… well… Buffalo.

“Concert promotion is legalized gambling;” I declared. And for the most part I stayed away from it. But I couldn’t stay away from Christian music. It was having a profound spiritual effect on me personally. And I had to share it with others.

In a little corner of the concert that night was a little concession stand we’d added at the last minute. Cans of soda. Bags of chips. And albums by some of the artists who would shape my life.

The albums grew into its own business. And expanded to include books and Bibles. Which at one point, expanded to include three retail stores.

It’s the same venture which today shapes about half of my work week. The blogs and other writing I do shape the other half.

And I owe it all to a bad snowstorm.

On January 23rd.

cat-can-part-snow

November 21, 2015

For The University Student Looking for a Window into the Next Chapter

Filed under: education — Tags: , , , , , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:32 am

Today I met with a woman who told me that her son started sending out resumés when he was only in his first year of a four year university program. He’s had offers already and still has years to go before graduation.

Later in the day I met with another woman whose son is on the precipice of college and doesn’t have a plan. He’s definitely university material, but there isn’t a clear vision of which school to pursue and what program to take.

In the latter case, we tend to expect that things will crystallize, at the very latest, by the end of the college experience. They may jump in with shaky feet, but they will tweak their course load as they experience academic disciplines that are foreign to the high school experience, and eventually come up with something that catapults them into the working world, or more specialized graduate school education.

But that scene doesn’t play out for everyone. What if you’re approaching the end of four years without a fixed plan? And what if you’re doing that surrounded by the type of people who were getting career offers while still an undergrad?

I follow the blog of such a university student. There’s a reference here to opportunity which may play a part. Or at least perceived opportunity. Some times it does seem as if all the breaks go to others.

James 4 - Do not say tomorrowHowever, I also recognize that there are times when the people who seem to have life all planned out need to remember to be humble, and perhaps write their plans in pencil, not in ink. (See the Bible passage at right.)

Anyway, here’s what the student in question wrote:

So, today I’ve been feeling pretty useless.

As my university life approaches its end, I’ve been starting to think about what I’m going to do afterwards and I’ve got nothing. It seems that everyone in my year is smarter than I am and more creative. Many of them are Type-A personalities that have a billion projects going on at once, many of them are far more traveled than I am, and on top of that most of them are prettier then me.

I was feeling this way, but then I started wondering about this idea of ‘useless’. Can a person be useless? I definitely feel like I’m falling behind everyone I know, but at the same time I can think of skills that I have and abilities that I can offer if given the chance. Or maybe I have to make those chances myself but I have no idea how to do that and I find the prospect overwhelming so let’s just forget that for now.

I find it helpful in these moments of self-doubt to know exactly what I’m doubting. It’s easy to say ‘I’m useless’ but if that’s not really how I feel then I’m not going to get anywhere. My problem isn’t feeling useless, it’s feeling unused. It’s a fear over lack of opportunity and an insecurity over a perceived lack of affirmation. I don’t feel like I can’t do anything, I feel like I haven’t done anything.

No one is useless. I don’t believe that anyone is made without something to offer. Sometimes we just don’t get the right chances, at least in a given moment. I’m sure there are things I could do and do amazingly but nobody’s asking for them right now.

If there’s anyone reading this who feels the same way, I hope that you stay strong and get your chance to shine. Correction: You already shine, I just hope that somebody notices.

If you want to leave a comment today — especially some encouragement — you can do so at the original blog post.

April 4, 2013

A Lesson Learned Too Late is Still a Lesson Learned

Was this the one time we disobeyed God? …Okay, maybe there were lots of times…

The time in particular that I’m considering is the time we moved to the city where we now live. It was 22 years ago, and we came with some “push” factors (wanting to get out of our 9th floor apartment in the city of three million) and some “pull” factors (liking the look of the town, as seen from the highway).

Later, I would write a song with an opening sentence that talks about the “pull” factors:

The part of the town that you see from the highway
Is never the part that the people there know.
The smiles and hellos that are so superficial
Filter the feelings we never let show.

When the business we were going to start in this town didn’t happen, we got caught up with the momentum of the “push” factors and decided we would move anyway. We would go into this foreign place and trust God to work out the details for employment and income. Not so smart.

(Tangent/aside: Never move to a town where you plan to raise a family if you don’t know anyone and therefore don’t have your potential babysitters or family supports lined up ahead of time. Ours included teenage girls who were (a) completely inexperienced — “You mean I was supposed to change him?” — with kids, (b) dealing with medical crises, (c) dealing with severe emotional breakdown.)

I think there was some element of God’s leading us to where we moved. We thought we were moving to start a business, but instead, we ended up getting involved with a church that really needed us. I got to write a newspaper column every weekend for ten years which paid for our groceries. My wife got to raise her boys in a house and not the apartment in the big smoke. I got to teach a year at a Christian school. My wife got to start a number of ministry projects which have made a big difference in the lives of people.

But did God just allow us to “make the best of it?” Was there a principle we missed?

I think there was, but I didn’t know the particular chapter and verse at the time. The verse is found in Proverbs 24:2 —

Do your planning and prepare your fields before building your house. (NLT)

First plant your fields; then build your barn. (Message)

Fix your business outside. Get your fields in shape and then build your house. (rough English translation of Louis Segond translation in French)

In other words, get a job, know where your mortgage payments are going to come from. Heck; know where your next dollar is coming from. Settle your career in that place first, then talk about your residence. Don’t move to Dallas, or Lisbon or Sydney without having a job waiting.

But we were young, we were idealistic, we were acting on a mix of faith and foolishness. I think we prayed about it — a bit — but earnestly praying together as a couple hasn’t been our strong suit. If you’re a younger married couple, and the shoe fits, take that as a personal admonition to do better than us when it comes to prayer. Starting now.

Joshua 9:14 — the story of Joshua’s ill-advised treaty with the Gibeonites — makes an even stronger case:

The Israelites … did not inquire of the Lord. (TNIV)

So the men … did not ask counsel from the Lord (ESV)

I really feel that God has journeyed with us and blessed us so many ways. But there have been some uphill battles that I believe trace back to not adhering to a basic scriptural principle. In many ways we’ve lived like monks who have taken a vow of poverty, nonetheless we’ve been blessed with some family circumstances that made it possible for us to live what appears from the outside to be a comfortable lower-middle-class life.

But my advice to people today is always the same: Prepare your work in the fields and then build your house.

November 22, 2010

People Who Have Lived Three Lifetimes

Whether or not a cat truly has nine lives, I know three people who really have lived three lifetimes:

  • Stormie Omartian — Recording artist and songwriter, host of exercise and fitness videos, author of books about prayer.
  • Sheila Walsh — UK recording and touring Christian musician, co-host of The 700 Club, author of books for adults and children and, as of this month her first fiction title.
  • Brian Stiller — This one you may not know, but is the one I know personally:  President of Youth For Christ Canada, Executive Director of the Evangelical Fellowship of Canada (our equivalent of the NAE), President of Tyndale University College and Seminary.

I’m sure I am also aware of others.   And each one of these qualifies because they did what they did for a considerable length of time.

I started thinking about this today because of the release of Brian Stiller’s new book on leadership:  You Never Know What You Have Till You Give It Away (Castle Quay Books).   Brian’s decade-long commitment to each of the three aforementioned ministries was rich, lasting and significant.

So what are you accomplishing?   Do you feel you’re making a contribution?  The Bible tells us to “redeem the time.”   Other translations say, “Make the most of every opportunity.”    A writer in another generation put it this way:

Only one life, t’will soon be past.
Only what’s done for Christ will last.

September 7, 2010

Am I Where I’m Supposed to Be?

Some people believe the center of God’s will is a circle.   There is a latitude of places you can live, people you can marry, jobs you can take; and still be in that center.

Other people believe the center of God’s will is a dot.   God has one city for you to live in, one person for you to marry, one occupation for you to pursue; and those things place you in His perfect will.

I think what matters most is that you want to do the thing that most pleases Him, and you are willing to do that where you find yourself, rather than wondering if you’re in the wrong city, or with the wrong person, or toiling away at the wrong job.

My oldest son wants to be doing what God has for Him to do.   He’s very good at science and mathematics, but when we dropped him off at university yesterday for the second year of an electrical engineering course, he was very vocal about his misgivings about being there.

This in turn, made it hard for my wife and I.   He was under a great deal of stress returning to dorm life and classes, and for us, it was probably easier to drop him off last year for the first year than it was this year for year two.

He’s got something he’s very good at, but feels he’s there because there are not a lot of other options right now.   In the spirit of “bloom where you’re planted” he wants to be a witness for Christ in that environment, but recognizes his history of social limitations in making connections with other people.

Perhaps you can relate.   Your circumstances may be quite different, but you may find yourself trying to squeeze some indications of “the bigger picture” out of the small picture situation where you find yourself.

If that’s you, all I can offer is what I said to my son:  I think in a case like this attitude determines outcome.   I know the situation in the dorm and the class schedule is not ideal, but you have to roll with the punches and trust God to work it for His glory.   He is there, working through every situation.

I believe the second part of the attitude shift is to then, having accepted the lack of other viable options, one must simply give it all they’ve got.   Aim for their best performance, even if that means outdoing a gold medal from the last time you sprinted around the track.

The first week of school is a trying time for both students, and the rest of us, who although we’re years away from the educational process, find it to be a marker of the change to a new year far more than January 1st.

So this is the true time to make resolutions, and for me, for this new season, trusting God more and trying to cultivate a positive attitude have to figure into my list of priorities.

Have you thought of making New School Year’s resolutions this week?    How do you deal with wondering if you are in the center of God’s will?

The book about God’s will being a circle or a dot is Decision Making in the Will of God by Jerry Freisen, and is sadly out of print now.   Check your church library for a copy.

Here’s where my thoughts were a year ago when year one was just beginning.

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