Monthly Archives: March 2014

It’s Not About What You Want

I want to, and have wanted to, do a lot of things. Let’s take one thing I wanted to do: I wanted to be an equities trader. I still do sometimes. So for two years I tried to do it, every day, hours on end. It didn’t end very well. (We can talk more about that later, I’m sure it’s going to come up again.)

At the end of the day, I wasn’t that good at trading. But, man I think it would be cool to trade for a living. But I wasn’t good at it.

I really really wanted to be able to do it. But it’s not about what you want.

Ultimately, God wasn’t calling me to build a career as an equities trader.

I’m not good enough, and I didn’t (and don’t) have the drive to stick with it. So I can confidently tell you, that’s not my calling. I’m not called to do that.

We want to make calling a really complicated thing to decipher. It’s not that complicated. As a matter of fact, let me eliminate 65.023% (note the significant figures, I’m very scientific) of all the professions in the world for you with this simple checklist. Just follow along at home and ask yourself these questions:

1. Am I good at [insert task here]?

(ok, I lied, it’s just one question.)

If you answered “no”: Congratulations! You’re probably not called to do that.

It’s that simple. (1)

There are some exceptions here, and we’ll talk about those later… But if you started reading this thinking “I have no idea what my calling is.” We just made huge progress. We cut the universe of viable callings in half. (!) You have 65% fewer options to consider.

Next time, let’s talk about what to do with the other 35%.

(1) It’s simple, but simple doesn’t always equal easy.

Maybe you want to tweet something memorable, maybe that memorable thing was “We want to make calling a really complicated thing to decipher. It’s not that complicated.” If that’s true for you, you could tweet it by clicking this.

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Dignity of All Work

The dignity of all work(2) is a theme that gets brought up a lot. If you understand why all work is dignified, it will radically change the way you view your work. Guaranteed.

Simple truth: All work is dignified.

Another way to say that might be to say that all work has worth.

All types of work, if it’s work with your hands or work with your mind, has dignity.  All work offers us dignity because it reflects the image of God in us.

Work has dignity because it is something that God does, and because we get to do it in God’s place here on earth. All kinds of work have dignity. (3)

Our God is complex and diverse, with many characteristics. No single person (outside Jesus) could ever hope to reflect all of his attributes and characteristics.

Let me paint a picture for you (4): a woman sits in a penthouse board room making quarterly projections for a fortune 500 company, as she’s talking, an intern brings her a cup of coffee, outside of the office janitorial staff clean the restrooms.

When you think about those roles – CEO, intern, janitorial staff – you may feel a gap. You might be thinking “those things aren’t like the other. Even Dora the Explorer could explain that.” But the gap you perceive isn’t a gap in dignity, it’s a gap in responsibility, or a gap in function.

Each of those individuals reflects a unique aspect of God which brings their work unique dignity and worth.

The CEO, the intern, the janitor (and the barista!) – they all face unique challenges throughout the day with unique opportunities to serve God and others. They each reflect a unique image of a glorious God.

This has implications for you too. Where do you sit right now? What do you do? I promise you that no matter where you are or what your or position is, you have a totally unique opportunity to reflect God’s character in a way no one else can.

I promise you that.

Your work matters today because it is fully unique. No one. No. One. Can bear God’s image the specific way you can. (1)

(1) Hey! Was that last line useful? As it turns out, it was less than 140 characters… you could tweet it. That’s a thing I would appreciate.

(2) When I say all work, I mean most work… some work is excluded. For example: the job of a pimp is not one that aligns with or reflects God’s character. Outside the obvious outliers though, pretty much everything works out.

(3) Did I say dignity enough? Has the word stopped making sense yet?

(4)  But not really “paint” a picture… It’s a word picture… that’s a real thing I just made up.

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We’re All Serving Someone

I just read this piece, Inside the Barista Class, by Molly Osberg. It’s pretty long, but interesting. I’m having a hard time recommending you read the whole thing, but I’ll provide a link below. She is discussing being a Barista, and her experience in NYC. Blah blah blah… then this:
Serving can be deeply satisfying work, physically and emotionally; I’ve rarely felt more in my body than on those days when I got the math right, pulled the lever down on the espresso machine as I reached for the next cup, knocked out ninety drinks in an hour. But service isn’t considered lesser than other professions because it’s less honorable, or even requires fewer skills. I’d love to see a graphic designer take apart each component of an ancient espresso machine for which no manual exists, or watch a fact-checker talk a junkie out of a bathroom without getting the police involved. The knowledge required to read a customer, to justify the processes and origins of that $12 cup of coffee, is just as specialized as knowing what a nut graph is. And, to be perfectly real, this is New York, and America, and the world; just a couple steps up the food chain, we’re all serving someone.
These jobs are seen as lesser because we made them this way.

And oh man. Isn’t that great? Isn’t it so true?

Serving is dignified and respectable. Serving can be deeply physically and emotionally satisfying. Serving isn’t lesser.

But we try to make service lesser. (Who is we? Collective we? Societal we?)

When you serve someone, you get to imitate a savior who served you at great cost. His service was humiliating and painful, but he served you because it was his joy to do so. When you serve faithfully, you get to honor God in your service and bring him glory.

If you work in food service (or any other service) you get to actively mimic Jesus’ service to us. And you get to do that every minute you’re on the clock. That sounds like vocational ministry.

So I guess the point is –

Baristas are pastors. (I’m not kidding) (Tweet that.)

Isn’t service great?

Link to the article because I promised (but don’t feel obligated.) – Link

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Dealing with Dull

My job was really dull yesterday… and tedious… and pointless.

Pointless is the worst part. I did a task that consumed two hours of my life, and every minute I worked, I knew that the project I was working on would never see the light of day. My work wouldn’t help our company earn revenue, no client would see it, and my boss would probably skim it briefly before filing it away neatly (in his trashcan). and oh yeah… yesterday was the weekend. (I know the weekend is two days… so what?)

So I’m working on a Sunday on something that I know doesn’t matter, but I found motivation knowing that in that moment of tedium I got to uniquely reflect the image of God. (more like moments, or 114 of them… not that I was counting (but I was))

You see – our God cares about details – he knows all the hairs on your head, he can count the stars in the sky because he made them all, and he clothed all the lilies in the fields. All of those tasks are pretty repetitive when you think about them. But God found contentment and appreciation for those things (he called them “good”).

So here’s the question – if you never did “tedious” things, how would you get to reflect the part of God’s character that labors over every hair on everyone’s head. How would you get to reflect the image of God that lovingly nurtures trillions of stars into brilliant existence? Answer: you wouldn’t.

I found motivation yesterday by remembering that my purpose, the only purpose that matters, is to glorify God. Yesterday, it just so happened that I got to glorify him through tedious work. I’m glad he gave me that opportunity.

So what tedious thing do you get to do? (That’s a totally loaded question…) Maybe what’s a task you hate to do? Don’t church it up either… what’s the thing you hate doing? (ok now church it up… how does that task reflect the image of God?) Extra points if you leave it in the comments, or shoot me an email and tell me what you thought up.

Good to Remember

This world is forever demanding that we take it as seriously as it takes itself, and it tempts us to take ourselves too seriously too. Ash Wednesday says, “No, no, no, dear sinner. You’re just dust, living in a world that’s just dust, and you and the world both are returning to dust. And you are dear to God nevertheless.” – Jonathan Rogers

There’s a problem with the implied theology here, but the underlying truth is sound. You are dust, and unworthy. But you are dear to God none the less. He loves you not because you are lovely, but because he is.

Full post here.