Archive for August 2011
~ Donald Cargill
Even once we believe we have glimpsed God’s vision for our lives, we then must determine what actions will best live out that vision. While many are called to care, or work for peace and justice, or share the good news with the many who desperately need to hear it, we each will be called to live out those visions in different ways. It can be hard to have faith that our uniqueness is worth more than programs or methods that have been successful for others, but God calls us knowing that we have unique gifts to offer, loving each of us in all of our diversity.
It is important to rest in that love as we work toward determining concrete steps to take toward God’s vision for us. Getting in a hurry or becoming impatient with the process can quickly lead to frustration. God not only has a vision for our lives, but also a vision for our journeys. At times, the journey may seem full of risk and uncertainty, but one thing we can trust is that God is not leading us into purposelessness and futility. Even when we don’t know exactly what God has chosen for our actions, we can know that God has chosen us, exactly as we are right now, to begin the journey toward God’s call.
Guiding God, lead us out of frustration and fear as we try to hear how you want us to live out your vision for our lives. Be with us on our journeys, no matter how winding and treacherous the road. Help us to know you are walking by our sides. Amen.
Director of Community Outreach
The standard railroad gauge (distance between rails) in the United States is four feet, eight-and-one-half inches. Why such an odd number? Because that’s the way they built them in England, and American railroads were built by British expatriates. Why did the English adopt that particular gauge? Because the people who built the pre-railroad tramways used that gauge. They were locked into that gauge because the people who built tramways used the same standards and tools that had been used for building wagons, which were set on a gauge of four feet, eight-and-one-half inches.
Why were wagons built to that scale? Because that is what matched the old wheel ruts in the roads. You might ask, “Who built these old rutted roads?”
The first long-distance highways in Europe were built by Imperial Rome for the benefit of their legions, and they have been in use ever since. The ruts were made by Roman war chariots. Four feet, eight-and-one-half inches was the width a chariot needed to be to accommodate the rear ends of two war horses.
Our modern rail system is built to accommodate horses rear-ends. Who knew, and, for that matter, who cares?!? Sometimes we hold onto traditions that long ago lost their usefulness. When this happens, they become barriers and limit our capacity to expand beyond our past imaginations, yet we rarely stop to ask why we accept the limitations we do.
What traditions are limiting you? Where are you blinded to your own imaginative power? What new rails, roads, and ruts can you carve in your life to take you down new paths?
The world needs visionaries who see new ways. Are you one?
Open our eyes, O God, to the limits we place upon ourselves
and give us the courage to see a new way. Amen.
~ Rev. Cameron Trimble, co-Executive Director of the Center for Progressive Renewal and Liturgist for Virginia-Highland Church
Like most people, I have spent an inordinate amount of time trying to discern what God might wish me to make of my life. I have prayed, searched, talked, listened, probed, and looked high and low, all in the hopes that I would find my one great calling. I grew up in churches where I heard sermons about “God’s will for my life” and “finding my purpose-driven life.” These left me thinking that there was one great thing I was supposed to do with my life and my job was to figure out what that ONE thing might be. Finding this task to be frustrating, I made promises to God like, “If you will just tell me who I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to do, I promise I will behave.” Today, I am incredibly grateful that particular prayer was never answered. As the saying goes, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.”
What I know now is that finding purpose and vision for our lives and our organizations is a process that can have any number of valuable end points. We can do any number of wonderful things with our lives that would be holy and pleasing to God. What God asks is not that we find the formula for the perfect life, but that we open ourselves to the richness and joy of living in the ambiguity of blazing our own unique trail.
In a recent article published in the “Harvard Business Review” about shaping a life with meaning, Umair Haque wrote:
The plain fact is that great achievement, deep fulfillment, lasting relationships, or any other aspects of an unquenchably, relentlessly well lived life aren’t formulaically executable or neatly quantifiable. First and foremost, they’re searingly, and deeply personally, meaningful. The inconvenient truth is: you’ll probably have to not just blaze your own trail—you’ll also probably have to plot your own map for your own journey.
So it is.
Developing a vision for your life or your organization is not about planning in as much as it is about preparing. It begins with you. All great visionaries are passionate souls with a zest for life, love, and generous grace. Think of those who have changed us: Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Maya Angelou, Michelangelo, Martin Luther King, Jr., Desmond Tutu – each and every one of these great souls has inspired within us a bigger and better dream for our own lives and our world, but they began by opening themselves up to being shaped by the ups and downs, ins and outs of a life charted by their own blazed trail. They found their passion and allowed that passion to shape their impact on the world.
At the end of the day, vision is a very simple thing. It is the joining of your passion with the world’s need. There are any number of ways to live into your vision. The question is what makes you come alive?
President, Hope for Peace & Justice
You may have heard the story of three masons who were working at chipping chunks of granite from large blocks. The first seemed unhappy at his job, chipping away but looking frequently at his watch. When asked what it was that he was doing, he responded, rather curtly, “I’m hammering this stupid rock, and I can’t wait ‘til 5 when I can go home.”
A second mason, seemingly more interested in his work, hammered diligently, and, when asked what he was doing, he answered, “Well, I’m molding this block of rock so that it can be used with others to construct a wall. It’s not bad work, but I’ll sure be glad when it’s done.”
The third mason hammered fervently at his block, taking time to stand back and admire his work. He chipped off small pieces until he was satisfied that it was the best he could do. When questioned about his work, he stopped, gazed skyward, and proudly proclaimed, “I am building a cathedral.”
The bigger your vision, the more magnificent your life can be. Consulting with struggling churches across the country, I learned quickly that they want us to fix everything but change nothing. Churches call us looking for a magic bullet, a formula for renewal that doesn’t actually require that they make any significant changes in their collective life. They are chipping away at rocks, angry and bitter that the 1950s have passed and people have stopped coming.
This is the modern human condition. We want to lose 20 pounds in two weeks but still eat whatever we want and exert ourselves as little as possible. We want to build the great cathedrals, but we don’t want to work with the architects, buy the supplies, or carry the heavy stones. Our vision may be grand, but our application is half-hearted, fearful, and impotent.
Becoming something or someone exceptional is not an accidental undertaking. No one accidentally builds a great cathedral. No, we intentionally decide to do these things and then undertake the preparing, planning, and training to make them reality.
How are you spending your life today? Are you angrily chipping at rocks? Are you molding rocks waiting for the day to end, or are you building a cathedral? Your answer will tell the world how great you wish to be.~ Rev. Cameron Trimble, co-Executive Director of the Center for Progressive Renewal and Liturgist for Virginia-Highland Church
We must learn to see with other eyes. The world contains many paths, some exalted, some mundane. It is not our task to judge the worthiness of our path; it is our task to walk our path with worthiness. We have been blinded by the bright light of heroes and saints. We must learn to trust the small light we are given, and to value the light that we can shed into the lives of those around us.
We must never forget that the mindful practice of daily affairs is also a path into the realm of the spirit. The Japanese have long known this, and hallowed the ordinary moments of life by elevating them into art. The Native Americans have also understood this, and consecrated everyday actions by surrounding them with ceremony and prayer.
But ours is a transient life, lived on the run, with an endless sense of process, of movement, of chasing the future. We seldom pause to shine a light upon the ordinary moments, to hallow them with our own attentiveness, to honor them with gentle caring. They pass unnoticed, lost in the ongoing rush of time.
Yet it just such a hallowing that our lives require. We need to find ways to lift the moments of our daily lives — to celebrate and consecrate the ordinary, to allow the light of spiritual awareness to illuminate our days.
For though we may not live a holy life, we live in a world alive with holy moments. We need only take the time to bring these moments into the light.
— Kent Nerburn in Small Graces
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