The Call Collective

Exploring God's presence and call within the culture.

Tag: Vocation

Eyes That Don’t See: To Know Much but Understand Little

Jesus was especially critical of the Pharisees and scholars of the law—those who should have known the most about God’s truth and will, yet slipped into their own intellectual egoism and blindness. They were given much—privilege, knowledge, honor—but they misused their status to conceal, rather than reveal, God and his plan for human flourishing. Gifted handsomely with the knowledge of how to live rightly, they failed to share it, let alone incorporate it into their own lives.

Francis Bacon is attributed with the familiar saying, “knowledge is power.” I would clarify and contend that knowledge only has the potential for power. And to add even more clarification, a potential for power that can be used for good or ill. There is no doubt that the pursuit of knowledge makes for a good and noble venture. We honor God by exploring the vast realms of science, philosophy, theology and so on—bringing to light the Creator’s subtle fingerprints buried within the canvas of creation. The pursuit of any truth, secular or theological, ultimately leads to the source of all truth: God. Yet, if we call to mind those “blind” and serpentine guardians of Judaic law from Jesus’ time, we are reminded that knowledge in and of itself is hardly enough. Knowledge can lead to love, but it can never be its surrogate.

Steven Garber, a contemporary Christian teacher and writer, wrote a book called Visions of Vocation. In the book he questions the role of knowledge in helping us fulfill our vocations in the world. To Garber, vocation remains a complex and multifaceted term and concept.

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PODCAST: Episode 1 – Responding to God with a Life of Meaning

In this 22-minute episode I discuss:

  • My intention with The Call Collective Podcast and a little bit about me
  • Uncovering a sense of meaning in our lives and why it’s important
  • The one question we should asks ourselves every morning in order to discover our mission in life
  • 3 tangible tips to help us respond to God with a life of meaning, purpose and mission

Subscribe to The Call Collective Podcast on iTunes  or listen to the episode here.

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What is Our Answer to Life’s One Question?

Recently, students across the country, donned in black caps and gowns, prepared for their descent from the guarded and secure microcosm of higher education into the “real world,” as they call it. These commencement ceremonies mark an occasion for celebration, excitement and unbridled hope. And while we extend a warm congratulations and heartfelt “good luck” to all graduates this time around, we’re now doing so to the last remnant of the Millennial generation. According to the “experts”, those born around the mid-nineties or later now constitute the next generational installment known as “Generation We” or “Generation Z.” And so, the world prepares to welcome the very first members of this generation into adulthood.

Unexpectedly, Generation Z is often compared to the Greatest Generation due to its members’ work ethic, independence and (at least compared to their Millennial older siblings) much more grounded expectations and goals. Mind you, this is a generation with only a few pre-9/11 memories. It’s a generation that witnessed their parents and relatives lose their jobs and houses during the Great Recession. It’s a generation that has grown up in the midst of school shootings and terrorist attacks—harrowing events that are now instantly accessible and gruesomely detailed on the account of technology that previous generations could never have dreamed up by even their most creative and prescient members.

It’s interesting to observe the “experts” point out the similarities and differences between generations: “X” generation is better than “Y” generation, pun intended, because of this or that. And while there are surely differences, there are some fundamental attributes that rear their head from the crowd of every generation. Regardless of our time or cultural milieu, we all wonder why we’re here and what—if anything—we’re supposed to do about it.

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A Higher Calling for Higher Education

For a long time, institutions of higher education have been heralded as guardians of intellectual progress—precursors to a life of success, worth and greater happiness. Most would agree that when it comes to at least the nation’s premier institutions, a college diploma offers admittance to the good life: hefty Roth IRAs, spacious homes, coveted careers and a slew of invitations for the head of the societal table. However, recently, this long-held belief has come into question by even secular members of society. Higher education, if not blatantly under fire, has drawn the aim of quite a few barrels.

Although our universities churn out some of the nation’s brightest and most promising students—many of whom go on to do wonderful things in the realm of technology, medicine, science, law and so on—there seems to be something missing. Students are graduating full of promise but emptied of meaning. Continue reading

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By the Sweat of Your Brow: The Indispensable Role of Our Day Jobs

There are certain days when it takes every ounce of willpower to drag myself to work and attempt to render what can rightfully be called a semi-productive day. We all have days when we just can’t see the purpose of our work, or if we do, we still can’t be bothered to do it. The general feeling of malaise might stem from a lack of passion, boredom, restlessness, laziness or any other number of things, including an underlying feeling that our work is a time devouring inconvenience that prevents us from doing the things that would really make our lives more meaningful and rich—nurturing relationships with friends and family, helping others, reading scripture, and of course, spending time in prayer.

I do like my job, and I’ve had other jobs in the past where nearly every day I dreaded punching my timecard. I’m grateful that I’ve found something that I enjoy on most days, but I know there are many who struggle to find value or joy in their work. For some, their work is pure toil and unforgiving labor, while for others, though it may not be awful, it’s not life-giving or fulfilling.

Still, it’s a great misconception to view our work—this mandatory, hefty chunk of our lives—as a means to an end. It’s easy to assume that we work so we can take care of our loved ones and ourselves, and that our jobs are merely something to occupy our time and render us “productive” in the vacant eyes of society. And while work does allow us to provide for others and ourselves, there is something deeply mystical and spiritual about it as well that we must not overlook.

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Reclaiming the Great Adventure of Christianity

There is something laced within our very being that prompts us to seek and participate in stories of adventure, a quest for something infused with inestimable purpose and meaning. Ever since the dawn of humanity, we’ve been lured by narrative, the enfolding of actions that drive toward some end, or realization, that underscores a fundamental truth about humanity—linking us to one another and calling attention to our communal nature. We love stories because they tell us something about ourselves that we didn’t know, that we had forgotten, that we didn’t know we have always known. It’s why stories that detail a quest to overcome evil or accomplish a noble good at some great cost inspire us. We’re inspired because we want our lives to embody that very same character—we want the opportunity for adventure, one fraught with risk, so we can overcome grave obstacles and prove to ourselves that we’re courageous, heroic, selfless.

From literary classics like Homer’s The Odyssey and J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings to recent adventure flicks like The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Mad Max: Fury Road and, later this year, Star Wars: Episode VII The Force Awakens, we’re a people captivated by stories. I grew up watching movies and reading books because outside of entertainment and escape, they gave me a glimpse of human life beyond the confines of my American suburbia. They served as education on what it means to be human. Stories give way to self-awareness. Stories can paradoxically convey truth indirectly yet more fully. And each of our own lives portrays a narrative—a uniquely tailored quests to discover who we are, to discover why we are. Continue reading

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How to Discern Your Calling (Part 3)

This is the third part to the three-part series titled How to Discern Your Calling.

How to Discern Your Calling (Part 1) >

How to Discern Your Calling (Part 2) >

In Part 1 we looked at the need to discern and act on God’s calling in each of our lives and in Part 2 we explored the need for discipline despite difficulties. For this last section, I would like to take a look at the final two primary aspects of co-creating our vocations with God: the need for humility and a connection to community.

The first product of self-knowledge is humility.
Flannery O’Connor

It becomes clear as we strive in whatever we’re called to do, whether that’s raising a child, healing the sick as a medical professional, probing the intelligibility of the universe through scientific or metaphysical examination, or a combination of many of these things, that we’re terribly inadequate to do so in many ways. We could say we’re deeply unworthy of the task God calls us to. That’s exactly why the only way to meet such a challenge is to first draw on the strength of God, to acknowledge the need for God and others in helping us arrive at our destination.

I’ve personally struggled with the idea of God’s calling for my life equating to relevance or popularity. I’ve found that often times I look for the affirmation or confirmation of others with respect to my life’s direction. Do people care? Do people think I’m living a worthwhile life? Am I relevant in the eyes of my family, friends, community and the world?

Such a deep longing for relevance flowers within the core of our human nature. Continue reading

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How to Discern Your Calling (Part 2)

This is the second part to the three-part series titled How to Discern Your Calling.

How to Discern Your Calling (Part 1) >

Often times, I think that if I uncover God’s plan for my life, things will get easier. If I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, then shouldn’t it be smoother? Shouldn’t I be coasting?

I wish. Truly.

The invitation to co-create your life with God is only the first step. As I talked about in Part 1, we have to take the time in prayer to discern where God might be calling us and then act despite not having it all figured out. It’s a step that has to be taken over and over again as our calling evolves due to the changing seasons of our lives. We never stop discerning what our calling is, always needing to sense God’s gentle direction in the midst of our ever-transmuting lives.

Our vocation is not simply to be, but to work together with God in the creation of our own life, our own identity, our own destiny…To work out our own identity in God, which the Bible calls “working out our salvation,” is a labor that requires sacrifice and anguish, risk and many years.
New Seeds of Contemplation, Thomas Merton

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How to Discern Your Calling (Part 1)

We hear it all the time. What do you do for a living?

It’s one valid way to avoid a conversational cul-de-sac—that dead end of awkward silence.

I’m guilty of it all the time. But it’s a perfectly acceptable question. Our jobs are important and embody a major aspect of our lives, so it makes sense that it would be a worthwhile question to ask. Not only that, but most of us have dreams to fulfill some type of meaningful work. It may fit under the realm of “professional work” rather comfortably (doctor, teacher, etc.) or it may be less career-oriented and more a state of life (missionary, priest, etc.), but either way, we all have a desire to produce work of value and meaning for the good of the world.

But we lose something by only focusing narrowly on what we want to do, because there is more to our calling than just what we want, or what we are explicitly paid to do. What is it that you can genuinely do with your life? What does the world need you to do? What is God inviting you to partake in?

I’m going to attempt to offer some insight on how we can go about discovering God’s calling in our lives. I think it’s important to realize that we’re not here in this world haphazardly. God does care what we do with our lives. I’ve heard some say that God doesn’t really care what you do just as long as you love him. I agree with this partly, as, of course, to love and serve God is our primary calling. That’s a given. Yet, we hear that God knows every hair on our heads and like any good parent, is concerned with even the smallest details of our lives. Continue reading

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