Tag Archives: work

(More) On How

In response to my post “Ever Present,” my friend Renee asked a critical question: How?  How can we live each moment attentive to God’s presence? Last week I shared 22 ideas with you for being more present in life and more present to God (find ’em here). But this week we’ll look at some deeper, theological and spiritual answers that come from a book I treasure.

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red poppyThe Practice of the Presence of God is a tiny little book with a great, big, walloping impact. It explores a seemingly simple idea . . . that revolutionizes every moment. It’s the record of some of the conversations and letters of Brother Lawrence, a French monk from the 1600s. Rather than summarize his ideas in my own words, here’s a short sampling:

Brother Lawrence taught:

• “That we might accustom ourselves to a continual conversation with [God], with freedom and in simplicity. That we need only to recognize God intimately present with us, to address ourselves to Him in every moment.”

• “That it was a great delusion to think that the times of prayer ought to differ from other times.”

 In letters, Brother Lawrence explained:

• “I make it my business only to persevere in His holy presence, wherein I keep myself by a simple attention, and a general fond regard toward God . . . an habitual, silent, and secret conversation of the soul with God, which often causes me joys and raptures inwardly.”

• “[W]e must accustom ourselves to a familiar, humble, affectionate conversation with Him. We must hinder our spirits’ wandering from Him upon any occasion.”

[**All quotes in the Public Domain]

What’s your reaction to this idea? What would a continual conversation with God look like in your life, in your heart? A relationship of freedom and simplicity? Addressing yourself to God in every moment?

Consider and pray . . . How might God want you to practice—make a habit of—tuning in to his presence?

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Now a bit more on Brother Lawrence. He was a monk who found he best connected with God during his daily duties – kitchen work. He experienced intimacy with God more in the context of his normal life than even the times set aside for prayer and devotions in the monks’ cells. His encouragement for believers to maintain a continual conversation of the heart with God can help us transform any – every! – moment into a sacred one!

But, let’s be honest.

stained glass prayerHe was a MONK.

He had NO KIDS!

He worked in a MONASTERY!

So how in the world can his advice fit within the context of real life? Because, let me tell you, it seems a LOT harder to have this kind of continual conversation with God in modern life than it probably was for him – at least in terms of the many distractions that assail us.

Yet Brother Lawrence offers us some insights that can yet help us navigate all that draws our attention from God. Continue reading

Sounds Great, But . . .

In my last post I shared a few quotes from Brother Lawrence’s The Practice of the Presence of God. Brother Lawrence was a monk who found he best connected with God during his daily duties – kitchen work. He experienced intimacy with God more in the context of his normal life than even the times set aside for prayer and devotions in the monks’ cells. His encouragement for believers to maintain a continual conversation of the heart with God can help us transform any – every! – moment into a sacred one!

But, let’s be honest.

stained glass prayerHe was a MONK.

He had NO KIDS!

He worked in a MONASTERY!

So how in the world can his advice fit within the context of real life? Because, let me tell you, it seems a LOT harder to have this kind of continual conversation with God in modern life than it probably was for him – at least in terms of the many distractions that assail us.

Yet Brother Lawrence offers us some insights that can yet help us navigate all that draws our attention from God.

• A conversation of the heart with God need not necessarily always be with our “mind” – with words. It can be an inner sense, in our heart, of being at peace in God’s presence. It is a state of contentment and intimacy with God deep down inside.

• When we have a task before us that requires our full attention, we can consider this advice from Brother Lawrence: “Before beginning any task I would say to God, with childlike trust: ‘O God, since Thou art with me, and it is Thy will that I must now apply myself to these outward duties, I beseech Thee, assist me with Thy grace that I may continue in Thy Presence; and to this end, O Lord, be with me in this work, accept the labor of my hands, and dwell within my heart with all Thy Fullness.”

• And, ultimately, this isn’t about feeling guilty or like we’re failing when we aren’t doing “enough” to connect with God. Brother Lawrence advises a completely different perspective: one of joy, lightness, and delight in God! Consider this encouragement from one of his letters: “[God] requires no great matters of us: a little remembrance of him from time to time; a little adoration; sometimes to pray for His grace, sometimes to offer Him your sufferings, and sometimes to return Him thanks for the favors He has given you, and still gives you. . . . He is nearer to us than we are aware of. We can make an oratory of our heart wherein to retire from time to time to converse with him in meekness, humility, and love.”

[**All quotes Public Domain.]

I personally find it discouraging to set the bar too high – to aim to connect with God in every single moment, as Brother Lawrence advises. But what DOES encourage me is to simply aim for more. To tune in to God’s presence more. To pause more to remind myself that God is with me. To be more grateful, at peace, in joy in the light of this reality. To be more focused on the unchanging reality that God is with me.

How can you remind yourself more often of God’s presence? How can you experience more of God’s near, faithful companionship in your life?

In every moment, you are there.

Embrace Your Worth

Embrace Your Worth-CVR1Thanks for joining in on the exploration of “Calling” during the month of March! If you’re interested in exploring this topic further, check out my new book Embrace Your Worth. Along with themes of calling and vocation, Embrace Your Worth delves deep into critical issues in our lives like self-image struggles, self-worth vs. self-esteem, seeing yourself as God sees you (You are his masterpiece!), embracing the giftings given to you through God’s Spirit, and discerning the good God gives you to do in your world.

Starting next week and for the month of  April we’ll explore Creation Care (environmental stewardship). Though Christians may have different political opinions about hot-button issues like environmental policies, I strongly believe that Christians of all political stripes can find unity around the biblical themes of receiving the good gifts of God’s created world with gratitude; learning more about God and experiencing his presence through his created world; loving the least of these by protecting human life from environmental degradation; and embracing Scripture’s call to be a wise and faithful caretaker of God’s good, very good, creation.

So whether you’re green at heart, curious but tentative about “green” issues, or even a skeptic about faith & environmentalism, please tune in during April. I’d love for you to be part of the dialogue!

Do Your Thing

do your thingCalling is a great big, deep, often mysterious thing. It’s the answer we seek to the oft-recurring question we ask: “God, what do you want me to do with my life?” And calling is also some small, mundane, plain and daily thing. It can be tied to one’s job (like, “God’s called me to be a surgeon . . . or a missionary or a pilot or a writer or a farmer”). It can be completely separate from one’s employment (like, “God’s called me to volunteer in children’s ministry” or “God’s called me to be a parent” or “God’s called me to be an AIDS activist”). It can be linked to passions, hobbies, and interests—like art, gardening, music, writing, cooking, woodworking, dance, or fishing. And, as Leslie reminded us last week, it can be connected to our afflictions. Even cancer or widowhood or a learning disability or a failed marriage or chronic pain can flow into a calling: A calling to bless, to listen, to mourn with those who mourn, to act in compassion, to offer words of mercy.

And calling can also be all wrapped up in totally un-special and seemingly un-spiritual daily tasks—like dusting, changing diapers, sorting laundry, grocery shopping, sorting recycling, and paying bills—because these tasks are all wrapped up into larger callings of love: Loving family, blessing neighbors, receiving God’s gifts with gratitude, living in integrity, stewarding God’s world well. Consider this claim from Puritan William Tyndale (quoted in my book Embrace Your Worth): “As touching to please God, there is no work better than another. . . . Now if thou compare deed to deed, there is [a] difference betwixt washing of dishes and preaching the word of God. But as touching to please God, none at all.”

So God’s calling, like a brilliant thread, weaves in and out of the multitude of other threads that make up the fabric of our lives: our work, our hobbies, our gifts, our passions, our ministry, our abilities, our relationships, our daily tasks, and even our weaknesses and our suffering. Continue reading

Small Acts: Meet My Friend Leslie Leyland Fields

Readers, as I edited this interview, Leslie’s words literally brought tears to my eyes. This is a gives-you-goosebumps kind of interview: beautifully honest and spiritually deep. Just what I needed as I edited it, and hopefully just what you need to read in this God-ordained moment right now.

So, as you can tell, I’m really excited to give you this chance to hear from Leslie Leyland Fields. She’s an author, a regular columnist for Christianity Today, a mom, and a woman with a unique job: participating in her family’s fishing business. Keep reading for some interesting, compelling, and honest thoughts about calling, motherhood, real-life, and the adventure God has in mind for each of us. 

leslieWelcome, Leslie! Can you tell my readers a bit about yourself?

I almost always identify myself first by where I live — I live on two island in Alaska, on Kodiak Island in the winter and on a small island in bush Alaska in the summer where my family and I commercial salmon fish. But I also resist being defined by where I live — there begins the paradoxes I live between and among. I’m mother to six children, ages 24 to 10, and I’ve delivered eight books into the world, all facts that contain both tension and blessing. But I know no better place to live.

This month we’re exploring the idea of “calling” in our lives. For some women, this is a really inspiring and invigorating idea. For others it’s frustrating because it can bring with it an expectation of doing something grand and important; meanwhile their real life feels so . . . normal. What’s your gut-reaction to the idea of having a calling? Why?

I believe in calling. Most of us know the root word for “vocation” is vocare, meaning “to call.”  That term and idea was used by the church for a vocation within the church, but we have a fuller understanding that the world cannot be riven into sacred verses secular arenas. We’ve all been “called” to go out and make disciples, but we’ve been called in different ways, and each according to her gifts — and her afflictions. Fulfilling our call is very rarely going to look dramatic and grand. It’s going to look and feel small, especially to us in this culture when everyone lusts after fame and a global platform. It’s going to be small acts done in private spaces, away from the cameras and microphones: a cup of cold water, a call to a neighbor who’s just returned from the doctor, mentoring a teen, helping a friend through a marriage crisis, feeding strangers. We can and we must do these kinds of things as part of our calling. But calling is more than this. It’s about fostering the particular gifts and afflictions that God has given each one of us for the up-building of his Kingdom. If you’ve got a beautiful voice, sing. If you’re an amazing gardener, garden. If words on the page are your passion, write. And afflictions: If you’ve been through serious illness, gone through marital pain, whatever burden of witness God has given you, exercise that witness among others in need.  Here is what I’ve written in my Writer’s Manifesto about writing and calling (but it applies to any gift):

Writing is a vocation, a calling, a kind of pilgrimage that takes us, like Abraham, from one land to another, through, of course, wastelands, where the promise of a promised land appears invisible and impossible, but the writing inexorably, day by day, moves us closer to holiness, the city of God.

Any calling, if it is of God, will include all of this: struggle, suffering, and yet a steady movement toward God and His holiness.

parentingmythOne reason I wanted to interview you about this topic is because I loved your book (with its critical subtitle!): Parenting Is Your Highest Calling–And Eight Other Myths That Trap Us in Worry and Guilt. Why do you think this idea that “parenting is one’s highest calling” can be so dangerous for moms? And why, in your opinion, is it a myth?

As Christian women and as mothers, we’ve been fed this idea since we were young: that our greatest contribution to the world, to the church, to the kingdom of God is the children we produce and raise. Continue reading

Your Daily Work: Does It Matter?

Work. Many of you, my readers, work outside the home: at an office, in a classroom, in a lab, in a cubicle, in a factory, or somewhere else. Others of you, my readers, work within the home: as stay-at-home moms, as homemakers, as household CEOs. And some of you work in the way I do: as a hybrid of a stay-at-home-mom and a part-time employee.

woman workingWhether it’s outside the home in a career you’re paid for or inside the home in the hard work of mothering, the truth is we ALL work. Our lives are filled with tasks that we set out to accomplish. We put in hard work and determined effort. We do thankless jobs. We create or contribute to something excellent. Our work takes up a large percentage of our time. We may derive a lot of our identity and self-confidence from our work, or we may simply work because, financially, we have to. We may love our daily work . . . or we may hate it.

So does our work really matter? And how does it relate to calling? Consider this post about the theology of work that I wrote for Gifted For Leadership back in 2007:

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We recently had a “worst or weirdest job ever” conversation among the adults in our Sunday school class at church. One friend had spent two years collecting umbilical cords for research (i.e. personally picking them up, packaging them, and taking them back to the lab in her car); another had worked the graveyard shift at a cherry-packing factory, quickly grabbing rotten cherries off the line . . . all night long.

My contribution to the discussion was one of my first jobs ever — a regular babysitting gig as a young teen. After several afternoons with the three kids and their “adorable” shih tzu named Buddy, I reported to my dad how cute it was that Buddy kept hugging my leg all the time. Needless to say, I nearly puked when my dad explained to me what all the “hugging” really was!

All joking aside, we all know from experience that sometimes work can feel frustrating, monotonous, exhausting, and unsatisfying. Whether you’re leading meetings in a boardroom or are at home washing dishes, your “work” consumes at least a third of your life. 

So what does it have to do with your faith? Continue reading

You (yes . . . YOU!) have a calling

phone.callingRing . . . Ring . . . Ring . . . Ring!

Hello?

Yes, this is God calling. I wanted to give you the plan. Here’s exactly what I’d like you to do . . .

If only it were that easy! The idea of having a “calling” in life can feel exciting to some and intimidating to others. What does it mean to be “called”? Isn’t that just for pastors or missionaries? And if we do have a calling, how do we discern what it is?

This month we’ll be exploring calling on my blog so stay tuned and engage in the discussion. My hope is that God uses this forum to speak directly to you–about who you are and his call on your lifeSo to start things out, here’s an excerpt adapted from my brand new Flourishing Faith book Embrace Your Worth:

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Vocation comes from the Latin root vocare which means “to call.” In this sense, as Parker Palmer explains in Let Your Life Speak, “Vocation does not mean a goal that I pursue. It means a calling that I hear.” Further, says Palmer, vocation is “a gift to be received.”

Pastor and author Fredrick Buechner has defined vocation this way: “The place where God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

What is your vocation? What calling do you sense? Continue reading

Meet My Friend . . . Keri Wyatt Kent

Author Keri Wyatt Kent speaks my language. Her books deal with the deep longings of our souls — intermixed with an honest view of the hectic reality we sometimes find ourselves in. She encourages us to make choices that draw us into a right rhythm with God and with others. I’m so grateful she popped in to speak with us today about a topic that is really, really important and also really, really tough to figure out sometimes: Sabbath. Keep on reading!

Keri, can you tell my readers a little about yourself? 

I’m the working mom of two teens, and for the past year or two, God has given me the opportunity to serve as our family’s primary breadwinner—although God of course is our primary provider. Last year, I had four different book projects published. Despite these pressures and workload, I took every Sunday off to rest.

The title of your book, Rest, simply draws me in. What an inviting — and needed — word in our lives! What motivated you to write it?

I had written about Sabbath (and other spiritual practices) in a previous book, Breathe. Many people seemed interested in the practice of Sabbath, many of them had an interest that centered on debate—thinking that it was impossible. So it was a subject that needed a more extensive explanation.

I know that for you the idea of Sabbath-keeping has been a journey. So how have your views and practices changed over the years? Continue reading