Vocation is Listening to a Voice

I am preparing for a seminar this week on “Mixed Emotions” focusing on the emotions of leadership, especially in the church. While preparing I remembered this quote from Frederick Buechner that I often read in one of my “Character and Call” classes. It moves me every time I read it.

Vocation comes from the Latin vocare, to call, and means the work a man is called to by God. There are all different kinds of voices calling you to all different kinds of work, and the problem is to find out which is the voice of God rather than of Society, say, or the Superego, or Self-Interest. By and large a good rule for finding out is this. The kind of work God usually calls you to is the kind of work (a) that you need most to do and (b) that the world most needs to have done. If you really get a kick out of your work, you’ve presumably met requirement (a), but if your work is writing TV deodorant commercials, the chances are you’ve missed requirement (b). On the other hand, if your work is being a doctor in a leper colony, you have probably met requirement (b), but if most of the time you’re bored and depressed by it, the chances are you have not only bypassed (a), but probably aren’t helping your patients much either. Neither the hair shirt nor the soft berth will do. The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.

Source: Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC by Frederick Buechner

Done (or “Disposable Art” as a friend once said)

July 1, 2013 and it is the hottest Canada Day on record and I have spent the day dumping old sermons into yellow plastic recycling bags.

Now please take this blog in the spirit with which it is written – total self-pity. I think that sometimes a little public pouting is good for the soul, in spite of what psychology claims, especially when one feels that “life as I have known it is over” (I have been muttering this a lot lately as I approach my 65th).

So, as I have said, it is a sweltering day, 30 degrees upstairs in our house, and Carole decides to go for a swim in the ocean but I mope downstairs where it is 10 degrees cooler and shuffle through 40 years of my paper life. For those who don’t know, preachers used to write sermons on 8.5×11 inch paper and drew outlines on acetate sheets for projection, way before PowerPoint and laptops but way after flannel graph.

Into the yellow recycling bag went all my Biblical brilliance. Sermon series entitled “Questions God Asks of Ordinary People,” “LAF, It’s Only the Church” and “Some Things I Learned Since I Knew it All,” were interspersed with less colorful topics such as “Romans in a Week,” or “When God Comes Down,” which sounds a bit frightening if I didn’t have a decent theology about who God is. He probably won’t incarnate again just to rebuke me for pouting.

In dumping my theological history, my occasional rants and revelations, my hope for a truth that can be walked in, my compulsions to see the church be what it can be, as well as some wisdom along the way, I feel relieved, finished finally. Done.

Seeing my soiled and written-on outlines, I can also see my anxious delusions as well as worthy hopes and good intentions and I am content that both get dumped together, slumming side-by-side in my yellow recycling bag. This seems fitting and the yellow tinge makes them look more antiquated, more special than they are.

It occurs to me that the best preaching that I could muster is to be recycled into Starbucks cups. So if you see the word “grace” or “hope” or “heaven” prisoned inside your paper latte cup, it might have been written by me.

You’re welcome.

Join the Movement

After reading Half the Sky, a women’s book group wanted to make a difference – a real difference. They dreamt, created, argued, consulted, prayed and decided to showcase charitable organizations that actively rescue and work with women and girls. Note: this group decided not to form another NGO and compete with all the other excellent organizations. Last May (Mother’s Day weekend) they launched their first Half the Sky (Canada) event focusing on awareness, advocacy and action.

In just a few short weeks (on Mother’s Day, Saturday, May 11, 10 am – 5 pm), these women advocates will hold their second annual awareness and fund raiser at Park Royal Shopping Centre (south mall) in West Vancouver, BC. They will host 18 charitable organizations that are actively supporting women and girls locally and internationally.

There will be a craft table to make a gift for mum, an outstanding raffle (draw will be at 4pm) and family portrait opportunities. Two BC Lions will join us at the EVA table. Join the movement!

So, having written this because my wife Carole is one of the leaders in this movement and because I deeply believe in advocacy by women for women (of course, men also need to advocate for women and children), a friend forwarded me this wonderful article by former President Jimmy Carter entitled “Losing My Religion for Equality.” Please read it and cheer.

A Client Question: “Who don’t you counsel?”

Mostly I ask questions to my clients. But I receive lots of questions as well. Here is one: “Are there some people you don’t counsel because you don’t think you will be successful?”

That’s a good question and with some people I am less capable than others.

I think that I work best with couples and families, though I do see lots of individuals. As a therapist I watch 3 factors – I call them 3M: motivation, match and method.

Motivation is what the client(s) bring to the sessions. Some come to change. Others come for support to stay the same (this is by far the minority). My job is to assess motivation and this is the best indicator of therapy success.

Match is the connection between the therapist and the client. This has a lot to do with shared values and hopes. Mostly I experience empathy for my clients and this is a huge factor in success.

Method is about the particular strategy. Marriage counselling skills are not very helpful with someone experiencing a major depression or recovering from rape trauma. Where I don’t know the method, I ask for training or supervision. Or I may well refer.

So there are some people I don’t counsel because I won’t be the best for them. It is based on the 3Ms. And if I say “not now” to the request, I work to find a best referral for the person asking for help.

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