Tag Archives: Occupation

That Which I am Gifted and Meant to Do

So Moses, Aaron and the leaders of Israel counted all the Levites by their clans and families. All the men from thirty to fifty years of age who came to do the work of serving and carrying the tent of meeting numbered 8,580.
Numbers 4:46-48 (NIV)

Along life’s journey I’ve come to understand that the organization of human beings to accomplish a particular task (or tasks) is an art form in and of itself. Anyone who has had to lead any kind of large scale endeavor understands this. There are numerous models and theories for doing so.

In this morning’s chapter we find the Hebrew clan of Levites were dedicated to the care, maintenance and moving of their nation’s mobile temple and all its furnishings. They alone of all the Hebrew clans set it up, took it down, carried it on the march, and did the work of the Temple while encamped. If you were born into the Levite clan you would not be a warrior, you would work be assigned religious duties the rest of your life.

Throughout history this paradigm has also been followed by many societies. A father is apprenticed into a trade by his father, and teaches the trade to his son. You were born into your occupation just as sure as you might be given the surname of that occupation: Miller, Thatcher, Farmer, and Doctor.

Had things still been done this way, I might be a carpenter today, just as my great-grandfather was apprenticed to be before he came to America as a young man. Anyone who has experienced my carpentry skills knows that this would be a tragedy. While I am capable to do some basic projects, you definitely don’t want me building your house!

In today’s paradigm, we are taught as young people that we “can be anything we want” and this is somewhat true. In our culture we are free to pursue any trade or occupation. I have noticed, however, that just because you desire to pursue an occupation doesn’t mean that you are gifted at that occupation. I have witnessed for years those who desired to pursue certain ministry tasks or roles within the local church only to frustrate the entire congregation by their lack of skill or giftedness. I’ve known preachers who can’t preach their way out of a paper bag, singers who can’t carry a tune with a handle on it, and directors of worship who are consistently lost and unable to capably give direction to anyone.

Just as the generational paradigm had its weaknesses, so also does the “you can do whatever you want” paradigm. Desiring an area of giftedness does not necessarily make you good at it.

This morning I’m thinking about my experiences in leadership with business, church, community organizations, and even the project management required of producing or directing a show. I’ve come to believe that one of a leader’s critical tasks is helping people find their areas of giftedness and helping them both embrace and develop those areas. Sometimes there is a journey of acceptance required to bring us to a waypoint of understanding that I ultimately find joy when I am doing what I am gifted and meant to do.

The Fragrance of Presence

 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing.
2 Corinthians 2:15 (NIV)

I’m on the road on business this week. I’ll be coaching three different teams of people over the next two days. I meet with these individuals every 2-3 months. In my job I often have the opportunity to be around people whom I only see on occasion. I come into their offices for a day or two, work with their team, and then I am gone for months at a time.

Early in my career I learned the importance of making the most of my visits. I don’t want clients to think, [rolling their eyes] “Oh great, it’s him again.” I want people to be happy to see me. While there will always be those who don’t like me (or perhaps they don’t like the process of being coached), the truth of the matter is that I have a lot of control over how people react to me with my dress, my demeanor, my facial expressions, my enthusiasm, my words, my conversations, and my actions.

This is not something that I take lightly. In fact, it’s motivated by more than good business. It is truly a spiritual motivation for me. I know that our jobs and working in our offices can so often be places where people feel like they get the life sucked out of them. I’ve literally had people tell me in coaching sessions that they feel like they’ve slowly been “dying” day-by-day in their jobs. Ugh!

When I’m working with clients I often think about the word picture Paul gave to the followers of Jesus in Corinth. I want my presence to be the fragrance of life for the people I work with. Many already experience the stench of death every day. I want my presence to bring something different to their environment. I want their spirits to sense the fragrance of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and gentleness. I want them to feel better when they leave our session than they did when they walked in.

I  know I’m not always be successful. I have my days like everyone else. But I always think about it on days like today when I’m preparing to go on-site. I don’t want to stink up the place. I want to have the opposite effect.

What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

Then my God put it into my mind to assemble the nobles and the officials and the people to be enrolled by genealogy.
Nehemiah 7:5 (NRSV)

What do you want to be when you grow up?

Astronaut, athlete, soldier, doctor, teacher, fire fighter, actor, engineer…

I sometimes think that many take for granted what freedom, rugged individualism, and the American experience have meant for those of us who’ve been blessed to grow up here, whose families have been here for generations.

My great-grandfather came by himself from the Netherlands as a teenager. He started as a carpenter, helped found the Co-op in Boyden, Iowa. He then started his own hardware store. My grandfather went to college and became an educator. His sons worked in meat packing and accounting. My dad’s children have worked in restoration and architectural arts, education, ministry and business. My children are finding their way into art and event management along with cosmetic sales.

What do you want to do with your life?

For the ancients in Nehemiah’s day, your family of birth often determined what you would do as an occupation. To quote Fiddler on the Roof, it was tradition. Only descendants of Aaron could be priests. Only descendants of Levi could work in the temple of God. If you were a “son of Korah” you were a musician. The genealogical record that Nehemiah referenced was critical to their society. Your family told who you were, and what you would be when you grew up.

The destruction of Jerusalem by the Roman in 70 A.D. was a momentous event in Jewish history because all of the extensive genealogical records of the Jewish people were destroyed. In the global diaspora of the Jewish people over the centuries the Jewish people lost track of which family and tribe they belonged to. Those orthodox believers in Israel today who wish to see, and are actively working towards, the rebuilding of a temple in Jerusalem face a legal dilemma in the law of Moses. If only sons of Aaron can be priest and only Levites can serve in such a temple according to God’s law, how do we know who the descendants of Aaron and Levites are? I wouldn’t be surprised if there are DNA experts in Israel working on an answer.

Today, I’m thinking about how awful it would be if I was stuck in the original family business of my great-grandfather. I’d be a terrible carpenter, and a very depressed adult. The same goes for being an accountant like my father. Both of those men were good at what they did, but my passion, gifts, and abilities lie elsewhere. I wonder how the ancients did it.

I’m grateful for the unique passions, gifts, talents and abilities God gives to each of us. I’m equally thankful to live in a land of freedom where I can choose to pursue those passions … or not.

chapter a day banner 2015

#CrazyTalk #BigMistakeDude

crucifixionLarge crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “…Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple.” Luke 14:27 (NIV)

Because Jesus’ death on the cross was the most famous crucifixion of all time, many people today do not realize that crucifixion was actually a very common form of execution in that day. The area was an occupied territory of the Roman Empire. Even in those days it was a political hotbed and the Roman Legion was intent on using force and intimidation to control the masses.

Crucifixion catered to the Roman’s desire to create fear and humiliation among their unruly subjects. Those sentenced to be crucified were forced to publicly struggle carry their own cross outside of the town as a form of spectacle. Once there, the victim would die a slow, painful death in view of everyone. Romans Legions would often line the roads leading in and out of an occupied town with multiple crucifixion victims. It was a visible calling card telling everyone that the Romans were in charge. It was a way of reminding visitors what they could look forward to if they created trouble for the occupying Roman force.

When Jesus turned to the large crowd following Him and said “Whoever does not carry their cross and follow me cannot be my disciple,” the message was layered with meaning. The crowd was used to seeing the victims of Rome carrying their crosses through the streets. They had all heard the screams of crucifixion victims dying in excruciating pain. They had seen the dead, twisted bodies hanging limp on the crosses that lined the highway out of town.

Jesus was riding a wave of huge popularity. His name and his message were trending like nobody’s business. He healed the sick and crippled. He fed entire throngs of hungry people. He publicly humiliated the rich and powerful religious hypocrites and took up the cause of the poor and downtrodden.

And then, He tells people they’ll have to be crucified if they wanted to follow. They’ll have to become victims of the evil Romans.

I can imagine what the crowd thought:

Be crucified? Did I hear that right? Crucified?! No more free fish sandwiches? No more free healthcare? No more entertaining stories and flash mob rallies? What are you talking about, Jesus? Are you on the side of the hated Romans now? Do you like what they are doing to our own people? Dude, I’m all for socialism and a little political anarchy, especially when there’s something in it for me. But being crucified?! Count me out!!

I can imagine what his disciples thought:

Master, what are you saying? Are you crazyYou’ve got these people literally eating out of your hand. You’re the biggest thing since Elijah. You can make history. You can rally the people against Rome! You can be king (and we’ve already drawn lots for the choicest spots on your new administration)! Why are you telling people to choose to be crucified? Are you nuts? You’re making a huge mistake!! You’ll drop in the polls. The Pharisees are going to crush you on the talk shows. This is political suicide! 

What Jesus followers did not understand about His mission is that it was never about popularity, opinion polls, earthly power, or politics. His mission was all about personal, spiritual, and eternal salvation. He knew His mission led away from the crowds and popularity to a lonely death on a cross. Even in the order of creation it is understood that the new life and hope of spring must be preceded by the long, slow death of winter.

10 Ways to Make a Positive Impression on Your Employer

source: gangplankhq via Flickr
source: gangplankhq via Flickr

All these were descendants of Obed-Edom; they and their sons and their relatives were capable men with the strength to do the work—descendants of Obed-Edom, 62 in all.
1 Chronicles 26:8 (NIV)

“Good help is hard to find,” it is said. Even with todays job market, in which I hear more people complaining “a good job is hard to find,” I can tell you as an employer that a capable employee with strength for the task is a valued find. When I was a kid I was taught that being capable was only what got you a foot in the door with an employer. It was what you did with it that made you indispensable and worthy of promotion or advancement.

10 ways I learned to make a positive impression on my employer:

  1. Arrive a few minutes early. Be on site ready to start when your shift begins.
  2. Don’t watch the clock. Work all the way to the end of your shift, and if you’re in the middle of a task, work a few minutes late until the task is done.
  3. If there’s a lull in the action, find something to do. Keep yourself busy, and don’t wait to be told what to do.
  4. Don’t be difficult. If there’s a dress code, don’t press the issue to see what you can get away with, simply adhere to the policy and don’t make an issue of it.
  5. If in doubt, ask. Better to ask than to do it wrong and create problems and irritations.
  6. Pay attention so you don’t have to ask again. Asking once is a good thing. Asking the same thing multiple times, or asking a million questions about things that should e common sense, is a sign of lack of listening, comprehension, ability, or responsibility.
  7. Don’t consider anything “beneath you.” Don’t balk at the small, difficult, boring, or dirty tasks. Do them willingly and do them well, and you probably won’t have to do them for long.
  8. If you make a mistake, be honest about it and take responsibility for making it right. An employee who covers up, obfuscates, and/or blames others is untrustworthy. An employee who is willing to take responsibility shows rare character.
  9. Be willing to go the extra mile without complaint or demand.
  10. Think like an owner, and if your employer asks you to make a decision then make the decision as if you owned the company and were responsible for its long term success. An employee who can think in those terms is capable of being placed in charge of many things.

If you do these things consistently without reward, recognition, gratitude and/or promotion, or if your employer consistently takes advantage of you, then keep looking for another job. There’s another employer out there waiting to reward someone who is “capable with strength to do the work.”

Chapter-a-Day Acts 18

Paul lived and worked with them, for they were tentmakers just as he was. Acts 18:3 (NLT)

I love the fact that Paul did what he had to do in order to fulfill the task God gave him. Not willing to be completely dependent on others, he worked diligently at the menial task of tent making so he could provide for himself. Coming from my Dutch Protestant heritage, I learned a lot about the worth of working hard and doing a job well no matter what the task. Being faithful with a small, menial task is generally rewarded with the opportunity to be given more responsibility with greater reward.

I’ve worked a lot of different jobs in my life. I’ve been paid to do a lot of different things:

  • Delivering newspapers
  • Babysitter
  • Lawnmower
  • Envelope stuffer
  • 35 mm film inspector/duster/splicer
  • Outbound telemarketer
  • Counter of nuts/bolts/screws for inventory
  • Corn pollinator
  • Package sorter
  • Bus boy
  • Book store clerk
  • Library clerk
  • Cook
  • Janitor
  • Driver
  • 35 mm film inspector/duster/splicer
  • Voice talent on radio commercials
  • PA Announcer for sporting events
  • Speaker
  • Writer
  • Napkin folder
  • Table setter
  • Cameraman
  • Photographer
  • Actor
  • Director
  • Administrator
  • Pastor
  • Counselor

I’m sure there’s more.

I sometimes get a kick out of people who sit in relative paralysis and endlessly wonder “what does God want me to do?” The longer I live the more I’m convinced that we are a lot like a jet ski. You can’t steer the dumb thing unless it’s moving forward.

Do something. Do anything. Just GO! God will direct you if you’re moving, working, and doing. He can’t direct us if we’re sitting dead in the water.

Chapter-a-Day Numbers 28

“Conclude the seventh day in holy worship; don’t do any regular work on that day.” Numbers 28:25 (MSG)

It’s funny to think that the concept of a regular day of rest, established thousands of years ago by a nomadic nation wandering in the Sinai desert, continues to this day with our “weekends.”

I know a lot of friends who grew up in families who strictly observed the “sabbath” by doing nothing. Sundays were a day of sitting quietly with your family and doing as little as possible. Some have even related a complex system of rules used to decide whether an activity was appropriate. The idea of wrangling with such mental gymnastics seems like a lot of work in and of itself.

I’ve always thought that rest was a much broader concept than being absolutely still. As a person who sits all week and works on a computer, the act of getting outside and puttering in my lawn, my pitiful flower garden, or on a house project is not work. It’s rest from my sedentary life. Being active and playful in ways unrelated to my daily occupation gives life to my soul and my body which needs to move and to be stimulated by activity other than that which I do too many hours of each week.

Today, I’m looking forward to a weekend of rest, and please don’t misunderstand. I’ll be very active, but these particular activities will bring a large measure of peace to my soul.