David C. Hughes, Writer

“Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others” –Colossians 3:23 NABRE

Archive for the month “February, 2014”

The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 10: Joy in Our Calling (2 of 3)

Let me ask you another question: If you didn’t have to worry about money, what would you be doing with your life right now?  If you could have the ultimate dream job, what would it be?  I pray you’re actually doing what you love right now, but if you’re not, I hope your answer to these questions brought a little thrill to your heart, a little shot of adrenaline, a little hope to your weary fingers and strained eyes.  Because if you’re living out God’s calling–His will–for you, you don’t have to worry about the money; in fact, you don’t have to worry about anything!  “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well,” Jesus told during the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 6:33 NIV).  Not a few of these things, not some of these things, but all these things will be given to you as well.

From the very beginning of my corporate work experience, and even while attending college prior to entering the 9 to 5 world, I began to realize not many people actually enjoyed doing what they were doing, but they kept doing it anyway.  During my almost thirty year stint in the corporate workforce, I’d heard countless gripes, complaints, and lamentations from folks about how much they loathed their jobs.  They lived the Dilbert comic strip every day, but without the punch line.  I saw how their jobs were making them sick, lethargic, unmotivated, grumpy.  I saw, in other cases, how their jobs were killing them.  “Why don’t you just quit?” I began to ask in response to these moans.  “Because I need the money,” came the invariable answer.  And so these folks kept right on griping, complaining, and lamenting.  It stunk.

“Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain,” the apostle Paul cautioned in his first letter to Timothy, “but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment” (1 Timothy 6:17 NIV).  Notice how Paul said “everything for our enjoyment.”  Everything.  For our enjoyment!  God is the God of provision and unlimited resources.  But for decades I went right along with those complaining about their jobs yet doing nothing about it.

Oh, I may not have complained so much out loud, trying to wear a more positive attitude on the outside.  But I could definitely relate to the complainers, the whiners, and the bellyachers.  And my conflicted attitude about work and money began to rear its ugly head in the form of depression, illness, pain, anger, bitterness, tiredness, and lack of motivation.  I felt trapped between maintaining a lifestyle I’d constructed over the past three decades and remaining miserable, or finally believing what God says about provision, protection, and doing His will, and risk living . . . joyfully.  “Men and women of faith struggle rather to surrender to and trust God and His providence,” wrote Matthew Kelly in A Call to Joy. “This surrender and trust free Christians of worry and anxiety and allow them to focus their energy on the realities of the present moment” (Matthew Kelly, A Call to Joy, “Chapter 3: Building Blocks of the Spiritual Life,” page 77).

I knew God never meant for our work to suck the life out of us like a spider draining the blood from a bug and leaving the husk to shiver in the wind.  Over the years I had allowed myself to be brainwashed by the mantra of retirement planning, coming the realize that no one–no one!–in the Bible ever retired.  Shoot, Moses was, what, 120 years old when he finally died?  Just imagine if he’d turned in the key to the Hebrew executive washroom at age 65 and continued to hang out in the desert with Zipporah, cultivating succulents for a hobby.  Where would the Jewish people be?  Probably still in Egypt, serving the Egyptians, as they’d done for over 400 years prior to Moses stepping in and demanding Pharaoh to let his people go.  No, Moses started his main career at age 80, after 40 years of gaining experience living in the desert.  Noah started building the ark when he was something like 500.  Abraham didn’t even have Isaac until he was 100.  Dang, in Biblical perspective, I’m just getting warmed up!

Dan Rasmussen is the Campus Pastor for New River Mineral Wells, in Mineral Wells, Texas, but before his life in fulltime ministry began, Dan was a chiropractor.  Son of church planter, pastor, missionary, and jack-of-all-trades, Dan went to college after high school, not for ministry, but for football.  After he met his wife, Janna, and they started dating, football suddenly became much less important.  Dan and Janna got married while he was a sophomore in college.  “My thought then was, ‘how am I going to provide for this woman?’” he told me.

“Part of my upbringing was always helping those in need,” he said.  “Watching my parents, and seeing their hearts, I wondered if I could find a career that helped those in need as well.  I began searching healthcare professions and landed on a career in chiropractic.”  After graduating from chiropractic school, Dan started his own practice.  At first “it was great!  I was my own boss and ‘living the dream,’ or at least I thought I was.”  After struggling for five years, “the business was sucking the fun and joy right out of me.”

So, after praying and discussing the situation with Janna, Dan walked away from his practice and began working for a friend in sales, “but it still was just a job,” he said.  “A means to pay my bills.”  Again he began to question what he was doing, then his friend let him go from that job as well.

(continued)

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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The Epiphany of Joy, Chapter 10: Joy in Our Calling (1 of 3)

We don’t do this for the money.  We do this because we love it.  The rest will follow.

–Amanda M. Thrasher, author and publisher

 

For the Lord your God will bless you in all your harvest and in all the work of your hands, and your joy will be complete.

–Deuteronomy 16:15b (NIV)

 

One cool November evening Mary and I invited Pastors Scott and Renee Crenshaw over to the house for grilled steaks.  After we finished dinner and enjoyed our slices of homemade Granny Smith apple pie slathered with equally homemade vanilla ice cream, I asked Scott, Senior Pastor at New River Fellowship in Hudson Oaks, Texas, if he considered himself living out his calling.  To me it was a rhetorical question; it was pretty obvious by the joy he exudes.

“I think so,” he responded, smiling and stroking his goatee.  “I really do.”  I nodded.  You see, I’d been struggling mightily with my calling for years, not so much in figuring out what my calling was–I knew exactly what it was–but with stepping out and answering that calling with a trust in God deep enough to pull the ejection handle on my tech job and parachute into a new career in writing.  I truly wanted to live out Goethe’s imperative, “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it.”  I’d only been at this writing thing fulltime for three months when I asked Scott the question.  The man obviously loves his job, and his spot-on sermons, his animated delivery, and his love for the flock he pastors reflect the passion, love, and joy he has in his calling.

“I was duck hunting one time,” he told me.  “It was freezing cold, I mean, it was miserable!  We got out there in the boat and we turned the heaters on and we’re waiting, and we got some poor dog sitting on the floor of the boat waiting to dive into the water.  And so we’re sitting there, and all throughout the morning, in the freezing cold, the water almost turned to ice, I’m hearing this sound, this thump-thump-thump-thump-thump, and I’m thinking ‘There must be an oil pump or something somewhere around here.’ Finally I realized it was that dog.  His tail was thumping.  What was he excited about?  He was excited about the moment when the guy goes ‘Cut ‘im!’ and the dog dives out into that freezing cold water.  But that’s what he’s made for.”  The Pastor laughed.

“And so at the end of the day I’m petting the dog and he’s living life, and I noticed his tail was literally bloody.  And the first thought that came to my mind was ‘God, that’s how I want to be.’  I call it bloody-tail passion.  I said, ‘I want to live in that.’”

I want to live in that . . . .  Who doesn’t?!  I want to be so caught up in fulfilling God’s will for me that I sit in the bottom of the boat, tail thumping, just waiting to explode with a bark of delight to scatter the ducks of joy all over Creation.  But so many people seem to just exist, to merely move through life joylessly, cowering like a beat dog, or floating around like a piece of driftwood on life’s ebb and flow, either never knowing their calling, or knowing their calling but never pursuing it out of fear.  And they seem unmotivated to do anything differently, like zombies going through the motions, dead but undead, losing body parts like hearts and souls along the way.  “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” philosopher George Santayana once said.  Those who cannot remember the past of their passions, those who cannot remember the past of what moved them, those who cannot remember the past of what brought joy into their hearts, all stand condemned by their own false truths, a parade of fools led by that king of lies: worldly security.

One of my deepest fears was getting to the end of life, looking back on not only what I’d accomplished but also the opportunities I’d passed up because of terror, and saying, “So what the hell was that all about?”  Rockford E. Toews, in his essay “One Less Accountant,” wrote, “Rather than purposefully living, the vast majority of people’s lives are little more than a series of reactions to events and forces outside themselves. That’s not truly living. That’s just survival. Yet most people willingly engage in simple survival today in the belief that they will get their chance at actual living tomorrow.  If they can earn enough money now surely they will be able to retire one day and enjoy life” (http://thoreau.eserver.org/oneless.html, retrieved 2/12/2014).

Jesus said as much in the Parable of the Rich Fool:

 

And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’

“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’

“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’

 “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”

              –Luke 12:16-21 NIV

 

Let me ask you something: Do you believe God wants you to actually enjoy the work He’s lined up for you  to do instead of being miserable in the job you’ve lined up for yourself to do?  Do you believe God has a plan for you, a gift of purpose tailor-made just for you, an avocation to live out with excitement, joy, and, dare I say, fun that will leave you breathless with wonder and smiling with contentment at the end of each day?  Do you believe God doesn’t intend for us to spend all of our energy chasing a dollar, but instead He intends for us to spend all of our energy chasing Him?

(continued)

Copyright ©2014 by David C. Hughes

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