Tag Archives: calling

Lots of news.

I suppose it’s time for me to say something about what’s next for us. I’m generally inclined to keep things like this to myself until such time as it feels right to talk about it, and that takes time to build as I process and begin to understand my own feelings and perceptions and let things settle in me. And I also kinda sorta wanted to wait for the official letter from the church, more as a formality than anything, or maybe as something to confirm that this is really real (’cause it’s a bit surreal). It’s easier to keep things from you, dear readers, but not so easily from friends who have traveled with us on this journey and who know the stages we are at and want to know what’s happening. And information is seeping its way out into the world, by word-of-mouth, Facebook, etc. (and Dixie writing a post about it today).

So I’ve been called to The Field. That’ll mean something to some of you and nothing to others. So: I’ve been called by a church in a field quite literally in the middle of nowhere (that is, it is not in or near a town). Plopped in a field in the middle of the the Wetaskiwin-Camrose-Ponoka triangle of Alberta. It’s called Malmo Mission Covenant Church.

It’s an associate pastor position, with responsibilities for youth, families, discipleship, intergenerational stuff, etc. A pretty broad position, in my view (hold the weight jokes, folks), with room for growth and learning and change and shaping. I’m quite excited (and nervous) about that. This is a process that started last fall sometime when I put my name into my denomination’s “system.” That was followed by phone calls, interviews, prayer, votes, and so on. Well, I suppose it goes back farther than that and even farther still.

The name of the church may sound familiar to some of you. That’s because it’s the one Randall is pastoring. That’s what makes this additionally surreal. Randall was there when the stirring began and had a big part to play in my developing sense of “calling.” To work with my friend, mentor, former pastor, and someone with experience and wisdom to share is quite a privilege as well.

So, the Vanderfamily will be moving to Alberta. When we got the announcement of the church’s vote while traveling in the car a couple of weeks ago, I said to the kids, “I got the job in Alberta. What do you guys think of that?” And Luke replied, “Okay I guess. But we’ll miss you.”

Adorable! Funny! So innocent! Or should I be concerned that he seemed unphased, that it didn’t seem like a big deal that Daddy was going away while they stayed here?

In some sense we have been for some time now carrying the burden of our childrens’ grief at moving away from their friends. Particularly Madeline’s. But the kids are excited at the prospect of this new adventure. I don’t think it has quite hit us yet that we are leaving friends as well. We’ve built some lasting ones here and it will be difficult to leave them. Of course, if we weren’t leaving them, they’d eventually be leaving us. That’s the nature of friendships made at educational institutions. But I do think that I am at least subconsciously beginning to grieve, if such a thing is possible. So I’m worried a bit that this post will sound too melancholic for what is actually good and exciting news. The excitement is building with each day, but that doesn’t mean grieving doesn’t get added to the mix.

A new chapter. A new adventure. A new home. A new community. New friends. New experiences. New joys. New mistakes. New successes. New lessons. Lots of news in the next couple of months.

Man of the Cloth, Part 2: On Calling

You might want to read “Man of the Cloth, Part 1” first.

I have often wondered what it means to be “called”, how a calling might feel or what it might look like.  I remember almost 10 years ago asking my pastor about it.  Wonderful, honest man that he is, he admitted he wasn’t sure himself (I never doubted his calling, I hasten to add; he was a great pastor, however that calling may have looked for him).  I wondered how many people who said they were “called” or “felt called” really were certain that it wasn’t their emotions playing tricks on them, that the Holy Spirit really spoke to them in some way.  Would I even hear such a thing?  Would God have to walk into the room, single me out and say, “I call you!” for it to be clear to me?  I often wonder if I could ever hear God’s voice, whether it was as a gentle wind, as it was for Elijah, or if He was smashing two cymbals together inches from my face.

Some people would say that God does not have a specific, unique call—at least not for everyone—other than to love God and love your neighbour, to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly with God—that we are called simply to daily Kingdom living.  I can certainly appreciate that—in fact, I think I would probably say that it’s true for the most part.  On the other end of the spectrum are the people who “feel called” by God or who sense that “God is telling them to . . .” or whatever.  I tend to regard that kind of über-spirituality with some degree of suspicion, if only because I have never had such a strong, clear sense of anything from God.  This week Scot McKnight linked to this post about “Feeling Called”, which I found quite enlightening scripturally and helpful generally:

So, how does a person discern a calling into ministry, a call by God to a particular task? This is not an easy question to answer, but I can trace the contours of what this should look like. First and foremost, a Christian should be aware of his or her general call to holy living and Christian testimony, the call all believers have by virtue of being called to salvation through Jesus Christ (1 Cor 7:15; Gal 5:13; 2 Thess 2:14). This includes a call to walk in newness of life, to love the brethren, and to proclaim Christ near and far. It implies a committed relationship to the Church universal and local, to build up the body of Christ through humble service, to give and live sacrificially. These things constitute the clear calling to which all Christians are to respond daily. They require no special recommendation or invitation, but they do, of course, require constant reminders and repeated exhortations. We too quickly forget the calling to which we are all called!

Second, the biblical pattern of calling to specific ministries or tasks involved either an audible (and often repeated) call from God, or an official invitation by legitimate spiritual leadership confirmed by the Church community. In the Old Testament this kind of call came through the God-appointed prophets, priests, and kings. In the New Testament it came through the pastors, elders, teachers, and leadership within the worshiping and praying community of the Church or even through the counsel of wise, mature, and trusted brothers and sisters in Christ. (link)

You might find the author’s words a bit too extreme (i.e. should John Q. Christian be called by the church even if he has no sense of it himself?), but I appreciate what the article is saying: calling is not as subjective or perhaps as mystical as modern Christians tend to make it out to be.  I’m not saying that I have a “calling” or that I have been “called” (or even that I feel called), but I should probably take heed of what has been going on in the last couple of months: the sense of shifting, the naming of things by others.  I need to pay attention because God might be whispering to me.  Or maybe He’s clanging pots and pans around my ears and I just don’t get it.  So I need to pay attention.

Stay tuned for a possible third instalment of Man of the Cloth: Fears, concerns, questions and misgivings.

Man of the Cloth, Part 1

So I’m thinking about going to seminary—or, at least, taking some courses to whet the ol’ whistle, as it were. No—more accurately: I’m thinking/praying about going into ministry more formally—you know, maybe become a “man of the cloth”—and seminary is one possible step in this direction.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now; it’s one of the reasons, I think, that I’ve been a less than consistent blogger of late.  Contrary to what readers of The Eagle & Child might think, I don’t blog about everything that comes to mind.  Sometimes I hold my cards very close to my chest, and if it’s a very big hand, it tends to affect my interaction with the rest of the world.  I become introspective, quieter; I tend to want to roam aimlessly, thinking things over repeatedly, though that’s not so easy to do when I’ve got a family that needs me.

I suppose this might not come as a surprise to most of you.  Much of what I write here is theological in nature (I should maybe check my facts first), and I read theological books in my spare time—I guess that makes theology a hobby.  I’ve thought for a couple of years now that seminary would be something up my alley, but until recently I couldn’t really justify it outside of doing it simply for my own amusement, and seminary would be an unjustifiably expensive form of amusement.  But my reasons seem to be changing with this man-of-the-cloth business.  Seminary seems to be one of the sensible things to do in this respect—it’s the path towards ordination—but that may not be my road.   We shall see.

A couple of months ago, after spending a weekend with our church’s youth at some event, something in me shifted.  I didn’t sense that it had anything to do with the youth per se, but it was definitely connected to church.  I can’t describe the shift to you, but I can picture the moment it happened, or started to happen, in my mind’s eye.  I kept that hand hidden as well, told nobody about the change I felt.

Here’s where it gets weird: not long after my return, two people asked, unprompted by me, if I had ever considered “going into ministry”, or something along those lines, maybe about “being a pastor”—I can’t remember what the exact phrasing was.  One of these people was Dixie.  I had said nothing to her about the shift I felt—she brought it up, as I say, out of the blue. The other person that mentioned this to me said that they had been praying for me specifically about this for some time, but hadn’t sensed any movement or prodding in this direction, but he, too, sensed something different after that weekend, which is why he brought it up.

This might be getting to wacky for some of you; it may not sound like classic Eagle & Child material.  But what am I supposed to do with the winds of change seemingly blowing (at the very least in my cobwebbed skull) and two people broaching the subject without knowing what has been going on?  It can’t be ignored.  At least, I can’t ignore it.

Here’s the story of my life in terms of what I “do”: I’m afraid to “name” things.  I am reluctant to say This is what I am doing or This is what I plan to do or This is what I want to be in any kind of decisive manner. As an example, Johanna asked me in January (or so) to do her wedding photography.  I mentioned it to noone but Dixie for several weeks, if not months, after I was asked.  My concerns: What if I misunderstood her request?  What if she changed her mind?  What if so-and-so laughs at the idea when I tell them? Insecurity is certainly a part of my silence.  But I’m also silent about these things, I think, because I sense that it’s not time to mention them.  It certainly wouldn’t have mattered if I had told people about the wedding photography, but with other things—bigger picture things—it sometimes feels like it isn’t time, as if the thought, the idea, the plans aren’t ready to be born yet.  They are ready, it seems, when someone else names them for me, or perhaps to me.

Things tend to fall in place for me, and that seems to have been the right way for me to make choices in life so far.  I sometimes get a sense of something, but I hang on to it, I keep it secret (keep it safe!) and ponder it, and wait to see what comes of it.  Eventually someone will come along and offer me this or tell me that, and the pieces of that original “sense” begin to fall into place.  Someone names the Thing, and then I feel like I can take the next step in its direction.  I felt like the sense I had that weekend with the youth was named for me by these two people—I had sensed it, and they named the Thing.

I’m not looking for advice or opinions.  Most of you don’t know me outside of the words I write here, so you probably wouldn’t be in a position to offer either of those.  Those of you who do know me, the comments may not be the place for that sort of thing (you can email me by clicking above), though I’ll leave them open.  Prayer, however, is a good thing whether you know me or not.

Part of me feels like it’s premature to mention this on my blog, but I’m posting this as a release.  This is what’s going on in my life—our lives—right now and I’ve become suspicious that it’s causing a blockage in terms of writing and thinking and creativity.  It’s what occupies me these days, but I haven’t been able to post about it here—didn’t feel it was time.  Maybe it still isn’t time, but releasing it may get my mental juices flowing, which would be beneficial in many ways.

Stay tuned for Man of the Cloth, Part 2: On Calling.