The Doubt and Confidence of Your Calling

Today’s guest post is from my friend Gloria Lee. Enjoy!

393290_10150363917819007_140620465_n“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-12

I turned 41 this year. I have never been married. I don’t have children. However, God called me to be a children’s pastor.

When I first started out as a children’s ministry intern 20 years ago, I was intimidated by parents. They were all older than me. I was just getting my hands wet in ministry. I knew I had a lot to learn.

I went to seminary and received my masters in Christian education. I spent three years studying how I can better minister to children and families. I still felt intimidated by parents. They were still older than me with more life experience. I was young and timid. I knew I needed to build confidence, but I thought it would just come with age, life experience, marriage, and kids.

Approximately 10 years into ministry, I was convicted that my role as the children’s director included starting conversations with parents about being the primary faith leaders for their kids. I also knew my role wasn’t just about teaching the kids but it was ministering to the families, including matters pertaining to parenting. I started sharing with the parents separation anxiety tips when they drop off young children, resources to help parents lead their kids in their faith, and other information I had read in books and articles.

One Sunday, a group of parents started attacking me verbally. They told me that my job was teaching children, and I had no business telling parents what to do. I was completely taken aback by their comments. They continued to tell me that everything I had to say showed my lack of experience as a parent, and I wouldn’t be telling them these things had I been a parent. I was in a state of shock because I was only sharing with them what I had learned working in public and private schools for years, from reading many books and articles, and from classes I had taken in school. Confused, hurt, and shocked, I went home that night and cried myself to sleep convinced there is no way I could be called into children’s ministry as a single woman without children.

I was ready to throw in the towel. Things got worse, and I didn’t want to disturb my senior pastor with church matters during his sabbatical. I had weathered through some tough ministry times before… I had been attacked for being a female leader in the church, I’ve had to carry the children’s ministry through months of ugly leadership division that resulted in a church split, and I even had a pastor threaten to “blacklist” me if I didn’t do as I was told (his demands had more to do with my personal life than ministry such as not being allowed to have a roommate because parishioners shouldn’t see how pastors live outside the church—yes, ridiculous I know!). But this time, my confidence was completely shaken… and I was convinced I had completely misunderstood God’s calling and entering ministry was a big mistake. I must have misheard His calling.

I wrote my letter of resignation and got up the courage to call my senior pastor on his sabbatical. During our meeting, he looked at me directly in the eye and said “My wife and I trust you with my own children. You have played a big part in my kids coming to know Christ. I call you when I need parenting advice. I believe with all my heart that God has called you to minister to children and families. I want to affirm you of your calling. I have no doubt in my mind I hired the right person for the job.” Tears kept streaming down my face, but I wasn’t convinced. A couple weeks later, my pastor affirmed my calling from the pulpit. The group of parents that had attacked me left the church silently.

But the story doesn’t end here. That experience alone left a huge hole in my confidence. I found myself apologizing for not being a parent when I talked to parents. I found myself quoting authors and speakers, but not speaking from my own knowledge or experience. One day, a missionary I respect said, “How are your kids?” I answered back, “I don’t have any kids.” She said, “Of course you do. You have hundreds of them. You care for each one’s spiritual health, sometimes more than their biological parents. Your interaction and experience with hundreds of kids make you more experienced than most parents.” Her words were medicine to my soul, and I started my road to healing and regaining confidence in God’s calling for my life.

Since then, I have worked hard at connecting with other children’s pastors who have excelled despite not having their own kids. I have worked hard at being confident in my role. I have worked hard at leading and encouraging with God’s authority rather than apologizing for my status. I have worked hard at honing my knowledge and skills.

Earlier this year, I was at a gathering of children’s ministers in my area. During introductions, I caught several newbies saying “I don’t have any children of my own so I’m not sure if what I’m doing is correct.” I felt the strong urge to empower them and tell them to embrace God’s calling and be confident in their roles.

Today, I know with confidence that God has called me to minister to children and families. I have 20 years of experience in children’s ministry, and I have had the privilege of ministering to hundreds of children and parents. I am confident of what I know, and I continue to learn more. I don’t pretend to know and feel as parents do. But I know that God has given me the gifts and authority to equip, encourage, and support families.

I turned 41 this year. I have never been married. I don’t have children, AND God called me to be a children’s pastor. What is God’s calling for your life? How have YOU found confidence in His calling for your life?

gloriaConnect with Gloria on her blog, Facebook and Twitter.

Fulfill Your Calling

DoLifeDifferent Today’s guest post is from Jill Hart, founder of Christian Work at Home Ministries (CWAHM) and author of the recent release Do Life Different. Today’s post is an excerpt from Do Life Different. Enjoy!

In everything that he undertook in the service of God’s temple and in obedience to the law and the commands, he sought his God and worked wholeheartedly. And so he prospered. 2 Chronicles 31:21 NIV

You may have heard of King Hezekiah. His story is pretty amazing. He becomes king at age twenty-five and immediately sets out to restore the land and tear down the idols the Israelites had been worshiping. Hezekiah restores the land to godliness. He restores the priests and asks them to cleanse and purify the temple. He reinstates Passover. More than that, Hezekiah goes to the temple and bows down before God.

A king bowing before the King of Kings. Isn’t that a powerful picture?

King Hezekiah is a beautiful example for us work-at-home moms. He gave himself fully to his work for God. His calling — being King — was his work for God. He did it to the best of his ability, seeking God at every turn. Sometimes we feel as if our calling is inadequate. I longed for many years to be a missionary, thinking of that as the highest calling God could put on a woman’s life. But, during my years as a mom and a business owner, I’ve begun to understand that God almost always calls us to minister in our closest sphere of influence before taking us to the next level. He wants us to impact our families, our churches, and local communities. He wanted King Hezekiah to clean up his own life. Only then could Hezekiah be the example for his kingdom.

No matter what God calls us to do, we can do it to the best of our ability – for God. When I’m intentional with my kids, when I make wise business decisions, when I put another’s needs before my own, I’m serving God. We need to show our faithfulness in the things that seem small. We need to minister in the areas of our lives where there may not be fanfare or recognition, just as we do in the bigger areas God may call us to. What’s your calling? Do you struggle with the misconception only missionaries and pastors work for God?

JillHartConnect with Jill and CWAHM on Facebook and Twitter.

Don’t Hide from Your Calling

DoLifeDifferent Today’s guest post is from Jill Hart, founder of Christian Work at Home Ministries (CWAHM) and author of the recent release Do Life Different. Today’s post is an excerpt from Do Life Different. Enjoy!

They asked the Lord, “Has Saul come here yet?” The Lord said, “Yes. He’s hiding behind the baggage.” 1 Samuel 10:22 (NCV)

As we step into this story, Saul has just been chosen as the first king of Israel. Chosen by God Almighty and anointed by the prophet Samuel. Not long after Samuel tells Saul that he will be King, Samuel calls all the tribes of Israel together to make it official. He passes through each family until he comes to Saul’s family. He calls out for Saul, son of Kish. But Saul is nowhere to be found. In fact, they have to ask the Lord about Saul’s whereabouts before they can locate him. Come to find out, he is hiding behind the baggage. He is terrified of this new calling of God on his life.

I can so relate.

We often hide behind our own baggage, don’t we?

We let the self-doubt seep in and we douse ourselves with our own unkind words. I often catch myself in negative self-talk. No one wants to listen to you. You’re no one special.

I hide behind the baggage of my past. Partly because I know some of those things I say to myself have a grain of truth to them. (I really am pretty boring most of the time.) Partly because I let my baggage shape who I am today. And partly because I am afraid of stepping up and doing what God has called me to do.

So, I hide behind the baggage, speaking cruel words to myself. And then I wonder why I don’t feel fulfilled and happy.

It’s time to make a change. It’s time to step out from behind the baggage and into the truth of who God says we are, who we can be with His help.

Do you fill your head with mean-girl thoughts about yourself, too? Are you hiding behind the fear and baggage like Saul?

JillHartConnect with Jill and CWAHM on Facebook and Twitter.

I Want to Do What You Do!

whereyouare

“How do I do what you do?”

How many times have you asked the question, thought the question, or heard the question? Aspirations to grow into something else aren’t bad in and of themselves, but we often miss what God has for us right where we are when we focus on the “next, great thing.”

When people ask me how they can start traveling and speaking at women’s events, how they can publish a book, and so on, I can give them a few practical tips but the bottom line advice is “Do what God has planned for you today, because it’s your preparation for tomorrow.” God prepares us in ways we cannot imagine. None of us get to our today via a straight line series of our yesterdays. Of course, we know a common thread is woven through the twists and turns of our yesterdays, but we likely couldn’t have predicted where our experiences were taking us. I couldn’t have planned to do what I’m doing today. In fact, even when people ask how I got to where I am as I travel around, I can’t really give them a clear answer…except that God led me here.

And God is leading me somewhere else.

I don’t know where that somewhere else is. I don’t know what it entails. I don’t know if it will be similar to what I’m doing now or drastically different. But I’m certain that what is going on today will not be wasted. God uses it all. When I get to a tomorrow somewhere down the road, I might be able to look back at my current todays and make a bit of sense of them, but it certainly won’t all make sense.

It’s certainly okay to have goals, but if you become too focused on future goals, you will miss out on the experiences God has planned for you today. You will begin to look for those things that fit into your expectations and ignore or avoid others. Before long, your will might just eclipse God’s will in the way you approach your daily life.

If you believe God is calling you into something, doesn’t it make sense that he will provide the way, including the timing? And wouldn’t it make sense to trust his way instead of trying to make sense of it on your own?

You might look at someone else and what to do what they do, but remember her today isn’t your today. Her tomorrow isn’t your tomorrow. You can’t replicate someone’s journey. You have your own, and no one else can take your place. If you choose to focus on anything other than where you are and what you’re supposed to do right now, you’ll miss out. And when you miss out on something today, you’re not quite as prepared for tomorrow.

What is God prompting you to do where you are…today? Get started!

Jesus Is Committed

Jesus is committed to your life. He lived a life of humanity although he is deity so that you could have eternal life. He suffered so you could live a life of eternal purpose. Are you following Jesus’ example of commitment? Are you as committed to him as he is to you?

As they were going along the road, someone said to Jesus, “I will follow you any place you go.” Jesus said to them, “The foxes have holes to live in, and the birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to rest his head.” (Luke 9:57-58)

Jesus wants you to count the cost of following him. Are you willing to give up your agenda, perceived rights, and desires to yield to and follow him? Commitment to Jesus means you want to become more like him every day. It means yielding to him to fulfill his purpose in his way, because he ultimately knows the path to your fulfilled purpose on earth.

Jesus said to another man, “Follow me!”

But he said, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.”

But Jesus said to him, “Let the people who are dead bury their own dead. You must go and tell about the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:59-60)

God’s calling and timing are perfect. We rationalize putting off his will, and in the process, we miss out on opportunities. Others in our lives aren’t unimportant; Jesus doesn’t intend for us to ignore our responsibilities. He simply wants us to understand that when he is the center, most important priority, he will make sure everything else within his will gets done.

Another man said, “I will follow you, Lord, but first let me go and say good-bye to my family.”

Jesus said, “Anyone who begins to plow a field but keeps looking back is of no use in the kingdom of God.” (Luke 9:61-62)

When a farmer plows his field, he must pick out objects in the distance to focus upon in order to move forward in a straight line. Averting focus will create swerves in the rows and inefficient use of the valuable farm land that will bring him harvest. When we follow Jesus, looking back at our old ways of life will throw us off the course Jesus planned for us.

Commitment requires focus. Focus on Jesus.

Entering The Ark By Myself

The clean animals, the unclean animals, the birds, and everything that crawls on the ground came to Noah. They went into the boat in groups of two, male and female, just as God had commanded Noah. (Genesis 7:8-9)

The animals entered the ark two by two. And while we as humans were created for biblical community, we’re called one by one. God extends the invitation for each of us to fulfill our personal calling and purpose for him. We choose how to respond.

Noah was called to build the ark: When God saw that everyone on the earth did only evil, he said to Noah, “Because people have made the earth full of violence, I will destroy all of them from the earth. (Genesis 6:12-13)

Nehemiah was called to rebuild Jerusalem: First I prayed to the God of heaven. Then I answered the king, “If you are willing and if I have pleased you, send me to the city in Judah where my ancestors are buried so I can rebuild it.” (Nehemiah 2:4-5)

Then Mordecai sent back word to Esther: “Just because you live in the king’s palace, don’t think that out of all the Jewish people you alone will escape. If you keep quiet at this time, someone else will help and save the Jewish people, but you and your father’s family will all die. And who knows, you may have been chosen queen for just such a time as this.” (Esther 4:13-14)

Moses, Abraham, David, Solomon, Ruth, Peter, Paul, Cornelius, Mary, Joseph. The list goes on. And you’re name is in that list. You are being called to be a part of God’s kingdom. You have a purpose. Will you accept it? You’re the only one who can respond, positively or negatively.

Which will you choose?

We have the big picture view of many people in God’s Word. God weaves men and women’s lives together in a way that makes sense to us. We are taught lessons through their lives, because we see the woven patterns of their lives. In contrast, we can easily get lost in the details of our own lives. God hasn’t pulled out the focused highlights to synopsize the purpose of each of our lives – for our own benefit and the others who will learn from our lives. The snapshots of our lives aren’t neat and tidy – at least not to us.

I picture the animals walking toward the ark. It’s a scene that seems to invite chaos. I don’t understand how two and only two of every single kind of animal gathered in one place, walked onto a large boat, and didn’t cause a warring menagerie. I don’t understand, but I know it could only be God’s guidance.

Our lives potentially look as chaotic even though we’re only called by ones. A bunch of individuals coming from every direction and background with a variety of languages, skills, talents, baggage, and personalities seems to create a mess, but it’s only because we view our callings and response to our callings from our limited perspectives. God sees it all very differently.

It’s not your responsibility to understand God’s purpose for you. It’s your responsibility to respond to God’s calling for you.

God’s calling might be specific, but don’t expect it to be. God does not fit into the box of your expectations. He might give you a glimpse of his plan but not the details. He might give you the detail of one step but not the long-range vision. Faith requires a willingness to be obedient without complete understanding.

God’s calling is for you and you alone. Your response is yours and yours alone. What will your response be? No Sunday School answers allowed. What is your day-to-day behavior saying about your response? Are you being day-to-day obedient?

God is calling you today. Respond wisely in faith.