Thursday, March 23, 2017

Fulfilling the Flickers

I have been feeling flickers of recognition regarding my calling. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s also specific. That’s exactly how it feels like. Like flashes of recognition. An Ooh! I get it! kind of sensation. Since beginning the Hopeful Thinking column especially I have noticed moments when I know I’m saying the words I truly mean to say. And people are listening. Maybe not a lot, but just those stalwart few are making an impact on my confidence.
I’ve had a lifelong “sensation” that I would later describe as a “calling” once ministerial language became available to me. It’s unfortunate that this description also renders a vague sense of destiny; I don’t conclude that. It is what it is. The sensation was an inner directive to provide comfort on the individual and community level, and the word community will mean wider things over time. It’s become specified into a directive of empowerment as a vocational term. Empowerment is the intersection of both the religious and the secular values systems. This is the epicenter of intercultural dialogue. It has no aisle to reach across. Empower an individual and they have the ability to empower others. The ripple effect. Subjugate them and we have a cripple effect, at the risk of being cute. Which one brings about Peace?
All present-moment problems are like a disease in a tree. They are best solved by intervention, collaboration, by the grafting in of new ideas in ways that do not ignore or devalue the existing reality of the tree. Nonresistance.
Future problems, however, are solved at the root. That’s where empowerment efforts are best directed. The reality of the future tree is still forming. If we don’t focus our efforts on the human developmental level, on the hometown community level, of what value will the larger world be? It will be an eternal exercise in the extinguishing of fires.
I am a self-styled Community Advocate. I don’t remember specifically when I adopted that term for myself, and I hope it isn’t hyperbolic, but I know I’ve used it for some time. Long before seminary. I needed it because I am what is known as an “Entrepreneurial Volunteer.” Self-starting (even if not always self-finishing) and visionary (meaning there might be a good reason no one’s ever thought of it before). Ergo, hard to describe, easy to overwhelm. It’s a career-long struggle to develop elevator speeches about one’s “work” when there is no boss, no likelihood of reasonable profitability, and everyone wants you to keep on doing it. I needed a vocational descriptor.
I think the term has done me a service over the years, to be honest. I have often thought that no one should ever want me as a spokesperson. I’m am too opinionated to be a mouthpiece for anything. I am an advocate. The spotlight operator. A cheerleader. I don’t represent an idea, I share one. Don’t just feed, seed. At least that’s what I mean to do. When I don’t, when I begin to assume a pushiness or obstinacy or attempt to speak on another’s behalf, I am able to recall the term advocate and remember that is the essence of the non-anxious presence in public service jargon.
I’ve always described my calling as a ‘sense of duty’ when the path was difficult. And it often is. What I offer in creativity does not always make up for what I lack in administrative willpower (no pun intended). To continue despite my challenges using the thought of duty as a mission statement is to accept the value of the difficulty for its own sake. It benefits me in the end to just be here now. Warts and all. Perhaps being slowed down by things which appear out of our control (including our own behaviors) are where God exhibits Its presence most noticeably. Perhaps there’s a point to taking things at the speed at which the treadmill is going.
Regarding the “sensation” I’ve had since childhood, there was always a “push” to it.  I’m sure that I’ve had free will to accept or reject it. But I never felt the desire to reject.  It was not a sense of coercion by, or submission to, but duty toward. Duty implies a personal choice, a vow, an acceptance of both the burden and the light. On some level I always knew what I’d be getting myself into. But I leapt anyway, knowing the net would appear. Falling is still scary.
Now that I’m on the precipice of being able to do the work I’ve dreamed of my entire life I am less afraid. I think that’s what helps me to realize that the “sensation” is becoming fulfilled: I am not afraid of it anymore. I think I know what to do.
Ordination is necessary. I see that now. Especially for the process that I will undertake to achieve it. I need the ordination process far more than I need the letters Rev in front of my name. I feel that an Doctorate in Education (with a focus on Transformational Leadership) is also necessary to do the work on the level at which I can truly be of wider service. It also adds a secular balance to the religious credentials.
So it is often the words used which help me define my identity. We eschew “titles” but unfairly. They are brands, mission statements, value declarations. Therefore I will brand myself for the expressed purpose of understanding who I am when I forget. I am not a minister. I am a practical theologian.
Praxis. Action. The Evangelism of Doing. Speak? Sure. Do? Definitely. Take what the Universe has given you and make something with it. Be the Mayo. Be the Surfboard. Take scripture and ask it what to do, not say. Resurrection, the miracles, the oral traditions mean nothing on their own. They are the vessels which are filled with the calling to take action to bring about peace on earth. We have worshiped the vessels long enough.
The dharma of Christianity—its suggested life practice—encourages an active, daily and dedicated life of nonresistance, forgiveness, compassion, hospitality and empowerment. For ourselves and others. These are the salvific practices Jesus taught us which will bring about the Kingdom we anticipate. This message may be my purpose. The active and public practice of it is my example.
I look forward to seeing how it all unfolds from here.

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