Trust

Competing Ways: Gurus vs. God

The Guru track to career success.  Whose missing?

The Guru track to career success.  Whose missing?

In the rather convoluted job/career track I’ve been on since 2008, 16 positions in nine years, my current job has by far been the most enjoyable.  It seems I found something new I flourish at - customer service!  

Might have something to do with the workplace -  a hardware store - essentially a toy store for a Do-It-Yourself guy like me.

It’s a great work environment - a knowledgeable, patient boss, supportive and friendly co-workers and a growing and appreciative customer base. I also love the part-time schedule that has allowed me to work a little more on some long latent creative longings like this blog, writing in general, maybe doing something more with my ornaments...

Unfortunately, the variable schedule pushes against the rhythms my creativity thrives best in and then there’s the compensation issue.  Retail pay is notoriously poor and I’m at the lowest rung possible.  Although we gave this a go, we’ve been tapping into our modest savings to cover our bills.

We already live frugally but we managed to find a couple small costs to cut back on while keeping a closer eye on spending.  Meanwhile we lean heavily into what has become our primary life strategy - to trust in, abide with and wait on the Lord.

Me as a True Value, "Customer Service Associate"

Me as a True Value, "Customer Service Associate"

This "Trust-Abide-Wait" focus finally locked in with me in 2016, a few months after I was “downsized” from position #15.  During eight or so years of career-searching, I basically vacillated between following the “Guru” career-search track and seeking/depending on the Lord.

“Guru” is my term for the generally advised career-search strategy that involves crafting a plan with tailored materials and pitches that feed a relentless campaign to aggressively promote yourself to hiring managers who make the call about who gets the job and who does not.

Some of the Guru mantras are: “Go big or go home… Just do it… If you want it, you gotta go get it;” and,  “Don’t turn back until you hit your mark.”

In stark contrast is God’s way along the line of Jesus’ striking teaching in Matthew’s gospel:

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!
— Matthew 7: 7-12, ESV

Notice how individualized God’s advice is.  “EveryONE who asks receives, and the ONE who seeks finds, and to the ONE who knocks it will be opened.”  

So how does God work out what happens when each of us ask, seek and knock along different lines?  EXACTLY!

The heart of man plans his way, but the Lord establishes his steps...Many are the plans in the mind of a man, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.
— Proverbs 16:9 and 19:21, ESV

When I finally peeled myself away from Guru to give myself over to trust-abide-wait, I was able to hear God’s voice a lot better.  This hardware job surfaced during that time and I accepted it with full knowledge of its variable hours and meager pay.  While our bank account dwindled a bit, my wounded spirit was restored.  

In the last three weeks, two job opportunities were made known to me, both bearing God’s fingerprints. While neither were perfect fits, I applied for both.  The second one resulted in my next job that offers stable hours, better pay and a growth track I can pursue if I want to.

Now I have to break the news to my current boss and colleagues.  Store staffing is delicately balanced and my departure is going to upset that balance during our busiest season. After I accepted the offer for the new job, I decided to also trust-abide and wait for a couple days to seek God’s guidance about the conversation with my boss.  

I’m glad I did because God reminded me that my duty is to listen for and follow only him and let him take care of everything else.  

“He is before all things, and in him ALL THINGS hold together,” wrote Paul in his letter to the Colossians  (1:17, NIV).

“Behold, I am the Lord, the God of all flesh. Is anything too hard for me?” (Jeremiah 32:27, ESV)

God holding ALL THINGS together includes my boss and colleagues, all our customers as well as everyone at my new workplace.  Such “holding” as only God can do is behind Paul’s bold, “no stress” statement in his letter to the Philippians:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
— Philippians 4: 6-7, NIV

Ideally, obedient believers have no stress whatsoever when we follow the path the Lord opens no matter how unusual or irrational it may initially seem.  Even so, God recognizes that this life is far from ideal and we all are stuck in it to varying degrees. For our "stuck" moments," Jesus offered these words of comfort:

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
— John 16:33, NIV

No matter how stressed we feel about what we know we have to do, "Trust-Abide-Wait" is generally a great course to take.


Take the adventure that comes

Aslan and Lucy from "The Last Battle," Chronicles of Narnia. (see notes for image source)

Aslan and Lucy from "The Last Battle," Chronicles of Narnia. (see notes for image source)

I write this for myself but feel free to read along.  This is a reminder for now and to have here to come back to again and again.  Because these feelings repeat.

I’m discouraged and I don’t feel like writing.  What do I have to say that anyone would want to read?  But here I am, writing anyway.

I find myself lacking a sense of call or purpose to wake up to today; or a future or dream to give the day some perspective.  But another day awaits that needs to be lived out.  

This awful, foreboding sense of failure washes over me, a strong sense of having fallen short but not knowing what hand I had in it or how to get back to generally succeeding again except to just live into this new day, do my best and lean into the Lord; And not take myself too seriously.

Today’s to-dos seem more than can be done in a day.  Some are in my sweet spots but some will stretch me.  Lately, more stretchy ones are in the mix than I prefer but I’m kinder on myself as I get older, more O.K. with good enough being good enough than when I was younger.  I’ve learned a thing or two about imagined perfection and excellence and their associated costs.  May I invoke that learning when today’s hour is late and some unchecked items remain.

“We must go and take the adventure that comes to us,” said a character in C.S. Lewis’ “The Last Battle,” the seventh of seven books of his Chronicles of Narnia.  The remark was offered as our heroes faced a daunting situation.  What to do or how to proceed was not at all clear while peril was certain and the odds were heavily stacked against the good guys.

In the case of these stories, the adventure-takers were all believers in and followers of Aslan,  the lion Lord of Narnia that Lewis modeled after Jesus Christ.  The adventure was viewed as one that Aslan had a hand (or in this case, paw) in allowing or causing to come to them. They knew he expected them to go forward despite their uncertainty.

So must I.  You too.  To go forward, live today.  

As we take on our to-do lists, keep the story God wrote, just for us, at hand.  Its guidance and wisdom is strong.  Filling its pages are the stories of other’s journeys very much like mine and yours.  

Whether you see yourself taking on the grand or the mundane, God levels every task and adventure, somehow rendering the grand mundane and the mundane grand.

Speaking to the sense of call or purpose, Os Guiness wrote,

“We are not primarily called to do something or go somewhere; we are called to Someone. We are not called first to special work but to God. The key to answering the call is to be devoted to no one and to nothing above God Himself.”
— Os Guiness, “The Call - Finding and fulfilling the central purpose of your life”

 

So here is the new day, brought directly from God, the author and source of all life and every moment of every day. We believers in him enjoy relationship with him through his son Jesus.  

Therefore, thanks to his mercy and grace, the burden of my past can be shed so I start this day with a clean slate, wholly forgiven and new.

O.K….(deep breath).  Ready now to “go and take the adventure that comes.”


Blessed Are the … Yeast? — 2012 Ornament

Glenn's 2012 Ornament (13th Annual): Blessed Are the…Yeast?

I was struck one day in my Bible reading with what Jesus said about the Kingdom of God. His audience did not have 2000+ years of Christianity behind them heralding him as God incarnate. But they had an idea about the kind of kingdom God’s would be. If it was truly God’s, it would certainly dominate any earthly rival.

But domination was not among the ideas Jesus shared about the Kingdom of God nor were might, majesty or power. Rather, ordinary and even lowly fit better for this kingdom Jesus claimed was home to him and “at hand” and accessible to all present.

Jesus depicted Kingdom people as poor in spirit and meek, mournful, merciful, peacemakers (Matthew 5: 1-10). And then he drew upon common, every day items to describe how Kingdom “subjects” were, like salty salt (v13), light-giving lamps (v14) and in another lesson, seeds that grow into giant trees, and a small portion of yeast that leavens a large batch of dough (Luke 13: 18-21).

Yeast. That one struck me. You can’t get more ordinary than yeast.

In 2012 after four plus years of career search posturing, I failed to secure any of the positions I sought despite making “the finals” on several occasions. But as I searched, I kept God in clear view and trusted that the doors that opened were either opened by Him or allowable by Him for me to pursue. This I did with every one. And here I stand, where I now am.

While I can’t see how my present fits with the balance of my life, I trust I am where God wants me right now. I am not in a career but I have a job with a good company. I don’t have impact like I would as an organizational manager but I can certainly be Kingdom yeast in my workplace.

The lesson of yeast and all Jesus’ kingdom analogies is that attaining the manner of God’s kingdom does not require any measure of success or status in this kingdom, the kingdom of the world, life now. In fact, success in this world may jeopardize our ability to truly see or at least dim our view of the Kingdom of God. (I need to keep that in mind if I should ever find my way back into whatever it is I think I’m looking for!)

Another realization from further study on this topic: virtually every Biblical character experienced this wandering into seemingly wayward places while being attentive to God, including Jesus himself. Think of his beginning, our Christmas: The scandal of his apparent illegitimacy seemed to cling to him even into adulthood – John 8:41?

When in this life, you feel helpless or impotent or left by the wayside, be alert to God slipping in under the radar to win you back to himself or re-establish your relationship with him. Christmas is about that.

If you should be so fortunate to join or rejoin the Kingdom procession, take heart when (not if!) you wander into some places and situations that are not what you had in mind. Where you find yourself will be where He is accomplishing His purposes in and through you.

…In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.
— John 16:33b

Notes:

  1. ORNAMENT TEXT:
    FRONT: Fleshman’s (Blessed Are the…) YEAST; All Natural
    BACK: BLESSED ARE THE … YEAST?; (Jesus) asked, “What shall I compare the kingdom of God to”  It is like yeast that a woman took and mixed into a large amount of flour until it worked all through the dough.”  (Luke 13: 20-21, NIV84)
  2. PERSONAL NOTE: This year’s ornament title melds words from three of Jesus’ teachings:

    1) Borrowing a “Blessed are…” from his “Beatitudes” – how God’s Kingdom is (Matthew 5: 1-16)
    2) A missing word, “Least.” How God is “in” our care of the least among us.  (Matthew 25: 40)
    3) And, “Yeast” – Jesus comparing the Kingdom of God to an ordinary staple of life that  everyone could relate to. (Luke 13:21)

    All of the above describes the year of 2012 for me – The sense of not hitting the mark (Least) and being merely ordinary (Yeast) in a world attentive to everything but.  But, all the while, “Blessed…” by people in my life lifting me up and, every step of the way, God!
  3. DESIGN INSPIRATION: came from the Fleischmann’s Active Dry Yeast package (http://www.fleischmannsyeast.com/landing.html). I presume their yeast is great but their package had perfect ornament appeal!

In All Things — 2008 Ornament

FOR THE PUZZLED

As Christmas ornament-making has become a tradition for me, I periodically jot down ideas about what God is doing in my life. But this year, the process was clouded by my feelings about being jobless for the first time in my life after being unexpectedly dismissed from my position as President of CLF just three months short of my 30th anniversary!

Turning to prayer and the Bible for inspiration and guidance, I ran across Romans 8:28 and held onto its promise – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.”

This Christmas, I dedicate this year’s ornament, “In All Things” to offer hope to everyone puzzled by life about how God’s view is clear even when ours is not.

2008 "In all things..." Ornament

That life is puzzling to us but not to God really bugs me sometimes.  You see, God holds this trump card – He is “sovereign.”  This means that he is able to work things out to advance his own purposes.  Wouldn’t you just love to be sovereign in that way?

Now God’s sovereignty is not only good news for him but also those of us who follow him.  Why?  Because God made everything “good” including humans who were made in his image and charged to rule creation in the same manner as he(Genesis 1:26-31).  Those are his purposes.

But things didn’t work out that way because humans decided they wanted to rule their own way – contrary to how God prescribed.  So humanity and creation is broken and pretty much existing apart from God, in opposition to his purposes.

But God is still sovereign and, because he is so, he WILL achieve his purposes.  He has a plan that he revealed immediately when humans decided to go their own way.  In Genesis 3:15, as he admonishes Eve for her participation in disobeying him, he also includes a promise – that the power of “sin” would one day be crushed by one of her descendents!

Down through the ages that followed, the plan unfolded as God “sovereignly” caused seemingly unconnected plots and subplots to “somehow” bring his plan to fruition.  The promised descendent finally arrived on the scene in the form of Jesus.  And then, through Jesus, God “crushed” the power of sin as 1stCorinthians 15: 21 summarizes: “just as death came into the world through a man (Adam), now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man (Jesus).”

So God getting his way is why we have Christmas but what has this to do with my hope in the midst of unemployment and the challenges that you are facing in your life? Well, look back to Romans 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” 

Those who love God also desire what God desires – his purposes.  So as we believers conduct our lives in pursuit of His will, all things that occur, even the most evil and painful ones, will “work” for our good and to fulfill God’s purposes for our lives.  That’s the promise.  Now as to HOW God makes that happen, well – only He knows!

Since the passage says that God works in all things, he is surely working in mything as well. My part of the equation is to love him and to align my life with his purposes – even when I don’t fully understand how his purposes will be achieved through me.

To reflect that idea, the ornament is three sections of a puzzle with the “next” piece “missing.”  When life is a puzzle, we don’t know what piece is going to fit in that spot, hence the bulb dangling there with a question mark (?) on one side.  God working out the answer (in the background) is represented by the exclamation point (!) on the other side of the bulb.

All believers may rejoice this Christmas that God has our backs.  At the same time, let us pray for family, friends and colleagues who are not yet believers.  Since unbelievers are on their own, apart from God, pray that they soon begin to follow Jesus along with us so that they too can have the assurance that God has their backs as well!

Now God’s sovereignty is not only good news for him but also those of us who follow him.  Why?  Because God made everything “good” including humans who were made in his image and charged to rule creation in the same manner as he(Genesis 1:26-31).  Those are his purposes.

But things didn’t work out that way because humans decided they wanted to rule their own way – contrary to how God prescribed.  So humanity and creation is broken and pretty much existing apart from God, in opposition to his purposes.

But God is still sovereign and, because he is so, he WILL achieve his purposes.  He has a plan that he revealed immediately when humans decided to go their own way.  In Genesis 3:15, as he admonishes Eve for her participation in disobeying him, he also includes a promise – that the power of “sin” would one day be crushed by one of her descendents!

Down through the ages that followed, the plan unfolded as God “sovereignly” caused seemingly unconnected plots and subplots to “somehow” bring his plan to fruition.  The promised descendent finally arrived on the scene in the form of Jesus.  And then, through Jesus, God “crushed” the power of sin as 1stCorinthians 15: 21 summarizes: “just as death came into the world through a man (Adam), now the resurrection from the dead has begun through another man (Jesus).”

So God getting his way is why we have Christmas but what has this to do with my hope in the midst of unemployment and the challenges that you are facing in your life? Well, look back to Romans 8:28 – “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” 

Those who love God also desire what God desires – his purposes.  So as we believers conduct our lives in pursuit of His will, all things that occur, even the most evil and painful ones, will “work” for our good and to fulfill God’s purposes for our lives.  That’s the promise.  Now as to HOW God makes that happen, well – only He knows!

Since the passage says that God works in all things, he is surely working in mything as well. My part of the equation is to love him and to align my life with his purposes – even when I don’t fully understand how his purposes will be achieved through me.

To reflect that idea, the ornament is three sections of a puzzle with the “next” piece “missing.”  When life is a puzzle, we don’t know what piece is going to fit in that spot, hence the bulb dangling there with a question mark (?) on one side.  God working out the answer (in the background) is represented by the exclamation point (!) on the other side of the bulb.

All believers may rejoice this Christmas that God has our backs.  At the same time, let us pray for family, friends and colleagues who are not yet believers.  Since unbelievers are on their own, apart from God, pray that they soon begin to follow Jesus along with us so that they too can have the assurance that God has their backs as well!

Mustard Seed — 2005 Ornament

2005 "Mustard Seed" Ornament

MOUNTAIN-MOVING FAITH

The year 2005 was notable as being my 50th year on earth. When Iwas younger and striving to establish some kind of foothold in life, I recall thinking that age 50 should be about when I should have life pretty much figured out and would find living it a little easier. 

As anyone 50 or more reading this already knows, not so. Though we strive, we never arrive and we discover the truth of the statement, “It’s not the destination. It’s the journey.” Moreover, this year, the journey seemed to present more twists than usual that discouraged me most when I fretted and focused on myself. However, when I remembered to raise my eyes to God and seek His wisdom and will, I was granted perspective and, often, specific insight for my issues.  And, the more I did that, the more I appreciated that just a hint of God is more potent than a whole lot of me. 

Fortunately, He asks little of us, just the faith of a mustard seed.  “I assure you, even if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you could say to this mountain, ‘Move here to there,’ and it would move.  Nothing would be impossible.” (Matthew 17:19-21)

A mustard seed is so small.  Why do you suppose God asks so little of us? I suspect it is because He knows we are inclined not to trust in Him.  To the extent that we do though, He more than honors that trust, that faith, by coming alongside and granting us peace that “transcends all understanding”  (Philippians 4:7).

May you have faith as “small” as a mustard seed this Christmas and in the year ahead and know that peace of His that transcends all understanding.

 – Glenn