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The “Calling”…

Butterflies ITHE “CALLING”…

   Fact or Fiction: Monarch butterflies flutter a thousand miles every year to escape below-freezing winter temperatures in Canada and the northern United States.

   That’s fiction. They travel two thousand miles.

   Monarchs fly about fifty miles per day for two weeks until thousands gather at butterfly sanctuaries in Mexico. And why do they do it? They don’t know; they’re just driven to do it.

   Why do you pursue that dream you do? Why do you put up with the frustration, long hours, exhaustion, self-doubts, fears, rejection, and sometimes, failure—only to start all over again—and again and again?

   Because you’re “called”.

A calling is that destiny you’re wired to pursue, that desire to accomplish something you can’t get away from, you can’t run from, and you can’t quit.

   You might try, but you always go back—to writing that book, pastoring that church, working that business, chasing that degree—day in, day out, month after month, year after year, until you either get it right or die trying.

   That is a calling.

   Jesus had a calling. He was born to die. He knew it, and he couldn’t escape it. Oh, he could have, at any given moment, cashed in his chips and gone home. He could have gone back to his carpentry shop, gotten married, and had kidlets—don’t think he couldn’t have. But he really couldn’t have. He was driven to do what his Father had called him to do: to sacrifice himself for the sin of mankind. And he knew where that would happen too. The Bible tells us that Jesus traveled through towns and villages, healing people and doing ministry, but “always pressing on to Jerusalem” (Luke 13:22). Jesus knew he would be killed in Jerusalem just as all the other prophets had been, but like the butterflies driven to endure the exhausting journey to Mexico, he was compelled to get to Jerusalem. That burden haunted him, despite knowing he would die an excruciating death, hanging naked and despised, on a bloody and splintered cross. Nevertheless, he said, “’I am under a heavy burden until it [his death] is accomplished’” (Luke 12:50, LB). And what were Jesus’ very last words before he died?

   “’It is finished.’”

   If you’re feeling the pressure to quit something that’s not quite working out, sometimes a failure to succeed might be an indicator that you’re not called to that thing. But if that’s the case, you should be able to let it go. Sure, there might be some mourning for the death of something you’d put your heart into for so long, but if you’re not called to that job or ministry or activity, the grief should pass. However, if the drive and passion to do that thing simply won’t leave you, if you know, deep down in your soul that it would be wrong to let that thing go, then that’s an indicator, too: you really are called to that destiny.

   I remember my last writers’ conference. I was halfway through a three-book thriller series; I’d finished the first book, tweaked it, polished it, and perfected my pitch. I had paid for my registration, scheduled my appointments with agents and editors, and packed my bags. Then I hit the road. I was absolutely certain that finally my big break would come!  

   So I met with agents and publishers—and several asked to see my book (or pieces/parts—you know how they are) so I went home and did the due-diligence proposals. Everything was going as planned and pretty soon I would be hearing back from folks asking for more…

   Crickets.

   I heard virtually nothing except from one agent who did give me some (rather confusing) feedback. So I quit. It was clear that I had no business daring to presume I could get published—ever. Wasting any more time under the delusion that I could be a writer would just be stupid; I needed to face the fact that I simply didn’t have what it takes and move on. Moreover, I wasn’t just hosting a temper tantrum, either; I really believed it. So I didn’t write for six months. I read a lot but I was done with writing. Instead, I cried. And I ranted some, particularly that Jane Austin could use telling “ly” words and still get published or that Taylor Caldwell could “head-hop” three times on the same page and get away with it.

   It was all so unfair!

   Still, with each passing day, I began to feel the lure of my long-neglected pen. Eventually, I ventured to write some short pieces—but just for fun, mind you. However, when those showed some promise, I began to think that perhaps, just maybe, I could play around with a couple of other book ideas; maybe it was just that one particular book I’d have to let go. Still, the whole time I was whipping up new characters and trying on new plotlines, I knew, deep in my heart, that I had to go back to the first book and try again.

   It was that book I couldn’t get away from, no matter how often I put it down “for good”.

   So, with much trepidation and just a little hope, I’ve resurrected the manuscript from its dark cocoon and begun to chop, revise, and rewrite until what’s emerging from the chrysalis is a very different creation than that which had dared to call itself a novel before.

   I don’t know whether it will ever be published, but I’ve come to realize that I have to finish that book. At times, it feels like I’m hiking uphill fifty miles a day but still, I know one thing: I’d rather do what I’m called to do and fail than to look back from my deathbed and wish I’d given it one more shot. Or one more after that.

   Like a butterfly tempted to thwart its advance to Mexico and camp in Milwaukee or Topeka or Santa Fe, the lure to abandon our assignments and settle can be overwhelming at times. But we can’t; we have to see our callings to their destinations. That’s Destiny—like the butterfly has.

   Like you have…

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What Keeps You Up at Night?

Man Can't Sleep (2)

   Pastor Nick runs a mid-sized, evangelical church in a fair-sized city where, every Sunday, he preaches for approximately twenty-five minutes (after working on the sermon for four days) for two services in front of four hundred people a service. Every other day of the week, Pastor Nick makes emergency house calls (mostly involving teenagers), counsels with people (usually the same people), and runs a food pantry on Mondays, a Bible study on Wednesdays, and a coffee house on Fridays.

   Meanwhile Katrina, a 27-year-old woman living in the suburbs of Peoria, spends her days (and nights) caring for two one-year-olds, one two-year-old, and an almost four-year-old. Since she is not able to work outside of the home because she can’t afford the daycare, she has become the daycare. Every morning, three other women drop off their children at her house: another two-year-old, a five-year-old (on the kindergarten bus at 12:30pm), and three six to eight year-olds (on the bus at 8:30am). Everybody is back to Katrina’s house by 3:30, and moms arrive between 4:37 and 6:10 – not that Katrina’s tracking.

   Emma is all about deadlines. Her deadline for the Spencer article is at 10am, the deadline for the book revision – the entire 286-page book revision – is due tomorrow (and she’s only 202 pages in), and the deadline to pitch the new book proposal at the writers’ conference is Thursday at 3pm sharp. (She wants to bring a thriller but romance is in – although not Amish – and definitely not a YA dystopian about a heroine with a sword, a bow or a slingshot – even if the boyfriend is to die for.) In the meantime, there are tweets to write, Facebook posts to edit, and Instagram pics to update. Oh – and there’s the blog. Always the blog…

   So – what do all of these fine folks have in common?

   Pastor Nick, Katrina and Emma all worry about whether, in the end, any of their hard work will be successful. All of their endless days and sleepless nights – is it worth it? Will they achieve what they’ve set out to accomplish – or will they fail? And even if they do succeed, will it even matter?

In the long run, when it’s all said and done, when they stand before the Lord and give an account, will it be an account worth giving?

   Late in the evening, after everyone else has gone home from work, Pastor Nick sits at his desk and wonders about Sunday’s sermon – did it really touch anyone? Will anyone go home differently than they came in? And what about Ed and Sue? Did he get through to them? Will they even try to forgive each other? And the coffeehouse – will it help keep kids off the streets?

   Katrina lays awake at night wondering how her children will turn out. Will they be good people – kind, compassionate, responsible? Or will they fall in with the wrong kids when they’re older and end up doing – she doesn’t even want to think about what they might be doing. Then when they’re older, will they still believe in God? Or will they reject God and leave the church as so many kids eventually do? Katrina tries to teach them right from wrong but she barely has enough time to cook, do laundry and run errands much less spend time with each of them.

   What if she fails her children??

   Emma would like to sleep but that’s a luxury she doesn’t have. Sometimes – okay, lots of times – she wonders why she does it: the revisions, the deadlines, the rewrites, more deadlines– and for what? What if the books are never published? Or what if they are – and then nothing happens? She tries to write books that will mean something – books that will make a difference to people – but how can she really ever know whether they will? Will all the long years of work have been just a waste of time? Or a whole life . . . ?

   The fact is that it’s not up to us whether or not our work succeeds – because it’s not our work. It’s God’s. Jesus said that he’d come to do the work of the Father, the implication being that it was not his own work. There’s great comfort in that truth because if it’s not our work, then it’s not our responsibility to make it succeed. It’s God’s.

   When we plant a seed, we’re not responsible to make it grow. We are responsible to water and weed the plant as it grows, but we can’t make the seed or the plant grow; only God can do that. In the same way, we can’t do anything other than our best with what we’re called to do and then we simply have to leave it up to God to make it work. We’re just stewards of the work; God is the master.

   Nevertheless, recognizing that fact does not give us a license to slack off; we have our part to play and it’s our destiny to fulfill that part. The problem we make is that because it’s “our destiny,” we think it’s even in our power to make that destiny succeed. It’s not. God gave us our assignments – and only he can bring them to fruition.

   Pastor Nick can’t make people listen to or obey the word – all he can do is to be faithful to bring it.

   Katrina can’t make her children do what’s right when they’re older nor can she make them have a relationship with God – all she can do is to teach them the right way and then pray that they follow it.

   Emma can’t make publishers choose her books nor can she make the books best-sellers – all she can do is to write them and promote them.

   It’s up to God to do the rest.

   In the end, all we’re required to do is the best we can with what we have and then to pray that the Lord will bring success to our work. Period. We simply cannot do more than that.

      Now – feel better?