...or you can let it come to you.

[This is the second of two posts that center around my recent vocational discernment. If you haven't read part one, jump over here first!]

Then, in January, I started this work in Admissions. This work that involves entering data into a difficult-to-navigate database, learning an endless stream of acronyms, and plenty of paper cuts.

This work that involves walking with others as they discern God's call in their lives, matching prospective students with current students who are eager to share their experiences, and being surrounded by an incredibly gifted team every day.

And then, less than three weeks after this dream-job interview, I became sure that God can call us to more than one thing.

So, until May 2013, I will live into this new knowledge by serving as the Associate Director of Admissions right here, at the seminary that has helped me understand the breadth and depth of serving God. It's funny: I have been so eagerly anticipating the end of my life as a full-time student, all the while dreading the thought of leaving this community. God so fully, fully provides.

At my endorsement interview last April, the pastor who was then serving as an Assistant to the Bishop (who is, in a delightful twist of fate, my new boss) recommended that I consider the possibility of serving in campus ministry at some point in my career. I was overjoyed at this suggestion, because at its heart, campus ministry entails walking alongside young adults as they figure out what it means to follow God's leading, to fully live into the vocations to which they have been called, and that aspect of ministry has always excited me. During the next chapter of my life, I will get to do exactly that, but with young adults, "regular" adults (whatever that means!), and even much older adults, all of whom are God's beloved children. In a roundabout way, this is precisely what I have always felt God calling me to do, it just looks a little different than I imagined. And it, too, feels like home.

I feel incredibly privileged to be able to serve in this capacity for the next two years. This call will afford me the opportunity to travel around the country to engage in conversation about discernment and hear the different and beautiful ways in which God calls God's people to public ministry. And when I return from these excursions, I will settle back into life on the Ridge and remember why I came here in the first place: because I so clearly see God at work here, and that, my friends, gives me great hope.

NB: The titles for this post and the one before it come from Sometimes a Beggar by Caedmon's Call, off of their latest album, Raising Up The Dead. Good stuff.


And you can search for what to say...

[This is the first of two posts that center around my recent vocational discernment. For part two, check here!]

Back in November, I started a blog post and never finished it. Here it is, in all its glory:
And that's as far as I got.

This was on November 18th, 2010. Two months and twenty-seven days ago. It wasn't the first time I felt that way, and it was far from the last. I was in the midst of an identity crisis (no, really), and it was terrifying. The post I started on that day has evolved a bit, and now has an ending that I truly could not have imagined just a few months ago.

I've found that every academic year carries a theme for me. Often, it stems from something that I've been thinking about on my own, but then pops up frequently in class, or becomes the subject of Refectory conversation. I've found that I can't force a theme, or every mention of it will feel artificial. When it naturally emerges, it's a welcome surprise and a constant reminder to listen to God's voice.

The theme that emerged around the beginning of this year was whether or not God can call us to more than one thing. It came up nominally in class, but predominantly in my personal life. That aforementioned identity crisis revolved around whether or not I was following God's call to be an Associate in Ministry, or if I was ignoring God's call to be an ordained pastor.

I spent a good bit of time, that week in mid-November, in an office in the North Wing of our academic building. One of the people I trust the most guided me through the painful process of looking inward and asking myself if I was being truly faithful to who God is calling me to be. I felt hopeless and, for the first time in my life, completely unsure of where I was going next.

I thought about going on internship. About taking a year to spend more time discerning. I thought about just switching to another program, as if it were a safety net, just in case it's what I was supposed to be doing. But I kept coming back to this program, to this roster, and it felt like home.

In the end (with the surprising help of TinkerBell, which is another blog post entirely), I discerned that I am doing what God has called me to do. Had I switched to another program or another roster, I still think I would be doing what God has called me to do. Because I really, truly believe that God can call us to more than one thing. I believe that God gives us a host of gifts that can be used in different ways, and it is simply a matter of being faithful in the moment. And being faithful in that moment, for me, meant pursuing a call to congregational youth and young adult ministry.

Well, that's what I thought at the end of November.

I pushed through the rest of the semester, and wound up with an interview at the end of December, thanks to a dear friend's recommendation. It was perfect. The congregation is exactly the kind I've dreamed of working in for years. The pastor and I got along quite nicely, and I think we would work well together in ministry. They want to get creative with young adult ministry. Like I said: perfect.

Leaving the interview, I told myself not to get too attached. I wasn't sure if they would be able to wait until May for a youth worker, and even if they were, another candidate might be a much better fit for the position. No expectations, no crushed dreams. Simple. But deep down, I felt like that job, that congregation, that call, was home. I was absolutely convinced that was where I would be post-graduation.

And, well, that was at the end of December.


Persecution or Inconvenience?

Last semester, I had three classes on Tuesdays. On one particular Tuesday, we ended up talking about Christians and persecution in two of those classes. In both cases, I felt like the token dissenter, playing Devil's Advocate just for the sake of stirring the pot. I took the side that I cannot stand by the claim that American Christians are, as a whole, being persecuted in our society today.

Except when I made that statement, I wasn't just trying to stir the pot. I was being completely sincere. 

In my first class, we were discussing how Christians were persecuted in the book of Acts. If you've read any of this book, you know that Christians were seriously persecuted then. They were driven out of their hometowns, thrown in jail, and even killed because of their beliefs. That's serious persecution. As a friend pointed out later, there are definitely Christians in America who are persecuted. This friend used the example of Rachel Scott, the teenage girl who was killed in the Columbine High School shooting almost 12 years ago, potentially because of her outspoken Christian faith. That is persecution.

But Rachel Scott is an outlier. As my friend Kerri put it, "[American] Christians might be inconvenienced, but not persecuted." In both of my classes, part of the discussion focused on the current state of Christmas in America. On how retailers are reluctant to say "Merry Christmas," and opt for an inclusive "Happy Holidays" instead. How nativity scenes are being taken down from in front of government buildings. I can understand how Christians might feel inconvenienced by this: a holiday that is central to your belief system is not being recognized, you don't know who you can say "Merry Christmas" to, and the list goes on. But persecuted? I don't buy it.

If anything, Christians are in a place of privilege in this country. When the media portrays the "perfect American family," they almost always go to church on Sunday, say grace around the table, and display some other sort of religiosity. There are variations in the statistics, but anywhere from 76-82% of Americans claim to be Christians. If you've been to church lately, you may have noticed that far less than 76% of your community is seated beside you. This might be a bold statement, but I would posit that most Americans just default to Christianity when asked for religious affiliation. They wouldn't do that if American Christians were so persecuted.

I want to be careful to give each person the respect they deserve. If someone feels persecuted, I don't get to determine whether or not they actually feel that way. But I would encourage that person to seriously consider those who are persecuted in harsh and unjust ways. Those who are tortured and killed for professing their beliefs. Those who are served with criminal charges for having a Bible in their home. While encountering strife among family and friends or not having a sales clerk wish you a merry Christmas might feel inconvenient, is it really persecution? By claiming that American Christians are persecuted, might it devalue the pain that Christians around the world (and non-Christians in America, for that matter) are experiencing?

As another friend, Adam, so eloquently stated, "There are some days I'm hungry, but I ain't starving!" And I think that's a good perspective to keep in mind.