Posted in minimal moments

How do you want to be remembered?

11698666_10153696669291756_7834115627973984371_nMy little sister Caroline stepped into heaven July 28. She was five years my junior and this old photo (circa 1980) captures how I remember her. Spunky, fun-loving, innocent, witty. To her things were simple and life was good. Even when it wasn’t.

For most of her life, she battled the complications and residual affects of a brain tumour discovered when she was a newlywed. The treatment destroyed her health and stole what would have been a normal life.

She spent her last 13 years in a nursing home, confined to a wheelchair, sometimes unable to feed herself or brush her own teeth. When anyone visited her, and I am not exaggerating, and asked how she was, she gave the same reply. Every time. Sometimes it was a croak, sometimes a whisper, but the words were the same: “really good.”

Caroline and Kevin have a daughter, Chelene, who wrote the most poignant eulogy for her mother that I have ever heard. Chelene’s tribute made me think — how do I want to be remembered when I am gone? As we all know (but easily forget amid the bustle and challenges and competition of life) it is the simple things. God has been calling me to simplicity for years and Chelene’s tribute to her mom typifies that call.

I didn’t know my Mom before 1981 – obviously – the year I was lucky enough to be born her daughter, but what I learned from her in the last 34 years could fill a novel. I would like to share some of her with you, since I believe everyone that had the privilege of knowing her was truly blessed. If I could summarize Mom’s philosophy on life into three categories, they would be:
Live Simply – Mom appreciated what she had, fully embraced each and every day, and was perfectly content with the life she had built. She loved Carrot River, she loved being a homemaker and stay-at-home Mom. She was the most amazing mom, and growing up would spend hours reading, playing games, teaching me, and taking me on outings. Once I was in school full time, Mom volunteered her time at the school helping children improve their reading, she loved volunteering her time to such a worthy cause and impacted the lives of many students.
Knowing how much I loved board games, Mom would play them whenever I wanted, for however long I wanted, no matter how ridiculous (I remember one game involving cardboard pizza slices and toppings that I made her play regularly!). Games became a frequent family activity. At one point she, Dad and I had a year-long ongoing game of Michigan Rummy that we would play over lunch when Dad was home from work and I was home from school. We used plastic poker chips, since Mom would never be comfortable gambling, even with pennies!

Over the years Mom had many hobbies – Cross-stitch, needlepoint, sewing, crossword and jigsaw puzzles, and once we got a home computer, her love of mahjong was born!

Love Deeply – Mom lived this with every breath. The love she had for family, and for God, knew no bounds. Not a single day has ever or will ever go by without feeling Mom’s love all around us. Her family was everything to her, there was nothing she wouldn’t do for us, and we always knew that we were her whole world.

When it comes to my Dad – anyone who doesn’t believe in soulmates never met my parents. Everyone who crossed their paths could attest to this. Mom’s favourite person was my Dad, you only had to look at her face when he walked in the room to know the depth of her love for him and his for her.

Mom always made an effort to embrace our hobbies simply because she’d rather spend time with her family than anyone else. We were the three musketeers. She became an occasional fisherwoman (and often caught the biggest fish!), enjoyed riding on the “bikes” (ATVs), and spending hours at the baseball diamonds watching Dad play ball. The three of us could often be found riding in the truck, three across, listening to the latest cassette tapes (once our taste in music started to diverge, Mom usually got to choose the music!). We took a memorable vacation to Minot, ND where many memories were made.

In 2008, Brian (officially) became part of our family after being around for 10 years, and Mom loved nothing more than reminding him that hats are not to be worn at the table – ever – not just at mealtimes! Mom found a kindred spirit in Brian, as she finally found someone who ate as slowly as she did. Many games of Sorry! were played as a foursome, with Mom usually winning by launching a sneak attack when the rest of us were too busy trying to beat each other. Mom’s presence at our wedding is one of my fondest memories, and one that I will treasure forever.

2013 brought the arrival of Blake, Mom’s grandson, and pride and joy. The smile she got on her face when Blake came to visit was second to none, and she couldn’t quite believe he was “hers”. Blake loved visiting Mom at the Health Centre, “playing” the piano, trying out each and every remote controlled recliner, and pushing Grandma up and down the halls. Blake will grow up hearing many stories of his beloved “Grandma Cline” and the amazing person she was. She set the bar unbelievably high, but I strive to be as great a mother as she always was. It will be no small feat.
Laugh Often – Mom never let a day go by without laughter (even at times when it was at her own expense!). Her clever, quick wit could often catch you off guard, and she would crack jokes when you would least expect it. Sometimes she didn’t even expect it! I fondly remember several occasions where Mom and I would collapse in a fit of giggles, to the point of tears – and while I can’t remember the reason, I can hear Mom’s laugh clearly and it warms my heart.
These three statements make up the core of who Mom was as a person and are a sample of the many, many things she taught me. You may notice I did not mention her illness, and I did this on purpose, as Mom never, not once, let it define her. In my entire life, I never heard her complain about the burdens she had to bear, not even once. She met each challenge with courage and her unwavering faith, without complaint or self-pity. It simply “was what it was”, and she never let it stop her from the principles by which she lived her life. Mom’s strong, quiet, and humble faith in God has always and will always inspire me, and I know that she is smiling on us today, joyfully and at peace.

Mom, I am not sure how I can begin to say goodbye to you, and I do so with a heavy heart – but know that I am filled with joy that you are finally free, and know you will be with us always. I will strive every day to live by your example of love, grace, and patience. I am so humbled and honoured to be your daughter. I love you forever.

Posted in minimal moments

Where are you going?

IMG_0618“There’s no point in simplifying your life if you are steering toward an end point that doesn’t matter to begin with.” These words smacked me in the face when I read them this morning in the final chapter of Simplify: ten practices to unclutter your soul.

I am at the bedside of my younger sister as I write this. She is in her final season. Everything that needed doing has been done and she is prepared to exit this planet. Holding her hand, rubbing her feet, brushing her hair, telling her we love her, raising her head so she can cough and one or two other little kindnesses is all we can do for her now. And we do it with joy because we love her.

Hybels, as a pastor, has sat at hundreds of bedsides just like this. “Here’s “what never happens.” none of the dying people have asked him to run home and fetch their trophies, to withdraw all their cash and bring it to them in a large suitcase, to park their BMW outside the window where they can see it, or to print off their companies latest financial statement just so they could see it one last time.

“When people are nearing death, do you know what they want to talk about?” Hybels asks. “Two things: whether or not they are right with their families and whether they are ready to meet their Maker. One hundred percent of the time, these are the conversations I have with people in hospital beds.”

“You simplify your life for reasons that matter to eternity: to give clarity, purpose and power to the things that matter most in this world.” Most of this chapter is spent outlining the futility of “chasing the wind” — Solomon’s words from Ecclesiastes. Hybels lists seven ways we become wind chasers:

1.Physical Health — not that he is against a healthy lifestyle. If you’ve followed this blog you will know that he recommends diet and exercise as a great stress reducer. But he brings startling perspective when he says, “My lawn will outlive me.” Ouch! “Pinning our hopes on longevity is not the key to a simplified and satisfied life.”

2. Education — let it be a means to an end (a soul-satisfied, purposeful, simplified life) not an end in itself or it will leave you with an empty soul and an emptier wallet!

3. Pleasure — there’s a reason college frat parties end. People grow up.

4. Work or Accomplishments — “An obsession with your career–even a career at home–is chasing the wind.” Workaholism will never satisfy and it will rob your relationships of precious years you cannot relive.

5. Wealth — Hybels interviewed Bill Gates and asked why he shifted from making money to sharing money. Gates said he woke up one day and asked himself, “What’s the point?” He knew he could keep amassing billions but for what purpose? He and Melinda decided to switch gears and their philanthropy is literally changing the world.

6. Sex — “There are people who…try to fill the void in their lives by having sex with lots and lots of people. It corrodes their souls and leaves them empty. As the great theologian Mick Jagger said, ‘I can’t get no satisfaction.'”

7. Fame — Michael Jackson. Kurt Cobain. Elvis Presley. Bill Cosby. Marilyn Monroe. Brittany Spears. Princess Diana. Do I need to say anything more?

As you look at your current life and think about simplifying, Hybels suggests you run every decision for change through these three filters:

1. Satisfaction: Will it bring true satisfaction?

2. Purpose: Does it align with God’s purpose for my life in this season?

3. Significance: Does it help me lead a life of significance?

The End.

Posted in focus on faith

Getting Unstuck

The spot on the Goat Lake hike trail where I sat down and cried, too afraid to go forward and too scared to go back. Stuck!
The spot on the Goat Lake hike trail where I sat down and cried, too afraid to go forward and too scared to go back. Stuck!

It is rather funny that I read “from stuck to moving on: welcoming new seasons in your life” more than a month ago and didn’t blog about it until now.

I guess I must have been stuck! No, in fact I was enjoying my little kingdom (garden, grandkids, good friends) during my summer speaking break.

Chapter Nine, the second-to-last, in Bill Hybels’ Simplify challenges you to move on if you are currently stuck in an unsatisfactory, unproductive, or unhealthy situation, circumstance or relationship. In order to do that, he suggests you think of your life as a string of seasons: Student. Married without kids. Married with preschoolers. Single parent of teens. Climbing the career ladder. Sandwich years. Empty nester. Widowed. Cancer battle. These are examples of seasons many of us have been through or are currently in.

Each season lasts weeks, months or years and has a beginning and an end. They have an ebb and flow and you move out of one season and into another. Learning to let go of a completed season simplifies your life and unclutters your soul.

It’s important to realize that difficult seasons come to all of us and sometimes you can get a few of those in a row. That can be very challenging so its important to remember that whatever you are experiencing now is just a season; it isn’t your whole life.

Hybels uses the framework of the book of Ecclesiastes to tell some real-life stories about simplicity. For example:

Eccl 3:6 a time to keep or throw away. In my case, I am a thrower and my husband is a keeper. But he travels a lot. So I “simplify” while he is out of town. He seldom notices. Except when I “downsized” his favourite sweater to Goodwill. That did not simplify my life….

Eccl 3:7 a time to be silent and a time to speak. Hybels recommends a media fast to get reacquainted with silence and to have the opportunity to listen and hear from God and your significant others. This would have been good advice for me before i punted Gerry’s favourite sweater.

Identifying your current season is vital to simplifying your life. It brings clarity and focus and makes it easier to see God’s hand in your life. You aren’t in your current season by accident. What does God want to teach you? You might be in a season of loss or success or loneliness or grief or pleasure — whatever it is, be fully there and allow God to mould your character in the process.

Hybels encourages you to recognize when a season is ending so you can move on. Whether it’s an unhealthy relationship or an immature persona (party girl) or an addiction or an attitude — unforgiveness, anger, cynicism, abuse — Hybels says move on.   

ACTION STEP: Identify your season

1. What season are you in?

2. What is God trying to teach you in this season?

3. Are you fully engaged in this season? What could you do to embrace it more fully?

ACTION STEP: move on

1. Are you stuck in an expired season? What makes you think this season is ending? How are you resisting the need to move on? Why?

2. What lessons did God teach you during this season?

3. What new season is God opening up to you?

4. What steps can you take to move on?

A final word: A few weeks ago we saw the MRI results indicating our 35-year-old daughter was cancer free. Thus ends a three-year season of increased engagement with her and her family. I am moving on with relief and gratitude! To what? I’m not yet sure. I stopped writing (articles, books) three years ago but continued speaking with a reduced schedule. I am seeking the Lord’s counsel and will as I close the door on a challenging season. One thing I know for sure is that because of the cancer journey God called me to simplicity with a louder voice than ever before. Is He calling you too?

Posted in minimal moments

Friendships: Pour into or prune?

funeral-20clipart-clipart-rip-512x512-b846If you were to die tonight, how many friends would come to your funeral? These are the opening words to Chapter Seven in Simplify by Bill Hybels, a chapter about friendships. So, how many would come to your funeral? Or mine? According to Hybels, a lot fewer than we think! The number of people we know does not equal the number of true friends we have. 

Hybels defines friendship like this: to know and be known. He expands this definition of true friendship to include accepting and being accepted, serving and being served, celebrating and being celebrated. Then he advises us to evaluate our friendships regularly so we can prune or strengthen them.

Yup, he said prune. As in, lop off. Why? Simply put: stupid rubs off. Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm (Proverbs 13:20). Hybels describes seven warning lights to look for in friends who may need to be pruned:

  1. arrogance
  2. dishonesty
  3. mean-spiritedness
  4. corner cutting
  5. integrity lapses
  6. spreading gossip or slander
  7. divisive

Then he lists nine welcome signs to be on the lookout for because just as “stupid” rubs off, so does “smart.” The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law (Galatians 5: 22, 23). Count ’em. That’s nine.

There are three levels of friends: Having a clear understanding of where each person fits in your life helps you clarify your expectations. 

1. Circumstantial friends: these are people we share portions of our life with — we work together, work out at the same gym, live nearby, volunteer together, attend the same church — but if circumstances changed we wouldn’t see each other any more. Hybels says be radically loving and kind in every exchange you have with your circumstantial friends. But know this: they’re not coming to your funeral.

2. True friends — for a season: Occasionally, circumstantial friends become true friends. But we live in a highly mobile world. The first time a close friendship is interrupted by a move it can be painful to accept and you might expend much effort trying to maintain those ties. Eventually you learn that time and energy is precious and limited, and while you never forget those friends, you may need to let them go. Hybels doesn’t say this, but I imagine that these people aren’t coming to your funeral either.

3. Lifelong friends: Some friendships really do last a lifetime. I have some of those and you do too. Whether near or far, these relationships are worth protecting and developing. Be aware, lifelong friendships are a treasured blessing and you might have only a few. They will make the effort to be at your funeral!

Hybels recommends that you look at your existing friendships and decide which ones need some adjustment — remember, the overall goal is to unclutter your soul by simplifying every aspect of your life. There are some friends you invite to get more involved with you in new ways. If they are interested, bring them along. There are others who hold back and you might have to let them go. And some friendships are toxic or harmful to you. These “frenemies” beat you down, hold you back, and worse still, rub off on you. In this case, say goodbye.

Now that you have sorted out your friendships — as if it’s ever that easy! — Hybels suggests ways to deepen your inner circle:

1. take small steps — moving too fast alarms people and true friendship takes time.

2. invest time

3. create shared experiences

4. wait for the volley — if you have initiated and nothing is coming back at you, don’t just move on, first ask the person if they want to develop a friendship. If they say yes but still don’t reciprocate, their actions speak the loudest. However, the exception is if one person in a friendship really does want to be friends but has a hard time initiating (like me) but is very quick to say yes when asked. This can be discussed and accepted and a great friendship can develop.

5. take off your mask (first) — be real. This is not code for “dump all your junk on them” but simply be who you really are, warts and all.

6. in a crisis, show up — this will always be one of my most painful memories. When my true friend Kathy had a flood at her house from a dysfunctional toilet, I did nothing. No mopping, no lugging. no hot meals. Nothing. I am ashamed, astounded and incredibly grateful that we remain friends today. True friends show up. If they don’t, you may need to honestly share your disappointment and hurt and then choose to graciously forgive.

Action Step: Identify your current relationship circles (for obvious reasons I am not going to make my lists public).

Using the Biblical model of Jesus’ relationships (3 close disciples, 12 apostles, 72 acquaintances), Hybels says create five columns on a page or spreadsheet:

Column One: 72 — list all acquaintance-level friendships. These are people you don’t know well. You’ve never socialized one-on-one or shared a significant conversation. Workmates. Neighbours. Gym class.

Column Two: 12 — list your current friends. you know them a little better, socialize occasionally, and consider a friend.

Column Three: 3 — list your current inner circle. Can include spouse, adult children, or best friends. Doesn’t have to be exactly three but should be a small number.

Column Four: Distant — list significant relationships with faraway fiends who, if they lived nearby, would be in the 12 or the 3 groups.

Column Five: Potential — list people you would like to get to know better. Be realistic. Don’t put Oprah or Beth Moore (unless you are neighbours) on your list.

Once your lists are made, save them. Come back to these lists to make adjustments as you think and pray. You can move people from one column to another or prune them altogether (this sounds horrible but what it really means is that perhaps that friendship has already died but you haven’t let it go yet; now is the time to accept and recognize it’s over). Knowing where people fit in your relational world simplifies your life by clarifying your expectations.

Posted in focus on faith

Let It Go

Forgiveness_7If you’ve ever been wronged this chapter is for you. Welcome back to the Simplify series. Today’s chapter, from wounded to whole, shows us how and why making room for forgiveness can simplify our lives.

Bill Hybels says relational breakdowns extract energy from us. I’ve known some people who walk away from relationships, even longtime, intimate alliances with family or close friends, because they don’t think they have the energy to try to repair the damage. Walking away doesn’t bring peace, it simply adds more soul baggage.

If you want peace of mind and satisfaction with life, Hybels uses strong language: We cannot live simplified lives without attending to broken relationships. I absolutely agree! He also advises, if you have done the hard work of forgiveness and also done everything in your power to restore a relationship but the other party is unwilling, get on with your life. Let it go.

Jesus set the example for us when, hanging on a cross, near death, He called out to heaven, Father forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing. Torturing and executing an innocent man would be grounds for a lawsuit and huge payout in today’s world, but Jesus forgave. You can tell a lot about someone’s heart by how that person prays when he or she has been wronged, Hybels says.

As a pastor, Hybels is often asked to step in when transgressions occur. While listening, and before responding, he determines which category the offence falls into:

  • Category 1: minor offenses. These people often realize they have overreacted to a minor slight as they talk. They are able to say, Thanks for listening. I guess it wasn’t such a big deal. When they just can’t see it on their own, Hybels grins and sarcastically retorts: Really? You feel wronged by that? Really? Personally, as someone who used sarcasm way too much all my life, I would not adopt that tone. But I would try to open the wounded person’s eyes to the reality that they are giving far too much weight to an insignificant (often unintended) event. Simplify your life by letting go of Category 1 offenses.
  • Category 2: legitimate wounds. This is more than a speed bump. It’s a betrayal. These wounded people want justice. Hybels reports that punishing the offender doesn’t bring satisfaction to the victim. …at the end of the day we…must come to terms with what has happened to us, and we must forgive. Forgiveness is not a simple process: we must acknowledge the wrong, grieve over the loss, and let the other person off the hook. Forgiveness in God’s time is the only door to healing. Hybels lists five “go” statements that guide the forgiveness and reconciliation process — we will spell these out in the Action Steps below.
  • Category 3: life-shattering injustices. Thankfully, not everyone experiences an unthinkable tragedy that forever changes the landscape of your life. Forgiving the drunk driver that stole the life of your child doesn’t happen overnight. For many, it requires a lifelong journey of working out their forgiveness. Hybels recommends Forgiveness: Finding Peace Through Letting Go because author Adam Hamilton describes two dimensions of forgiveness: (1) your internal release of bitterness, anger or desire for revenge; (2) the extension of mercy toward the one who has wronged you. 

ACTION STEPS:

A. RELEASE (category 1) MINOR OFFENSES:

If little things become big things…

  1. do some exploring inside and journal what you find. Ask yourself why you’re so sensitive. Examine the triggers, peel back the layers.
  2. fill up your heart by purposefully seeking ways to let God’s love fill you.
  3. ask for Gods help and His perspective. Ask yourself if this minor offense is worth getting upset over.

From my experience, 99% of the difficulties in marriage fall into this category. We make assumptions about our partner’s behavior far too often and hold grudges against him/her based on those assumptions. Did he refuse to open that car door for me or simply forget because he was focused on other things? Go ahead and talk about it in an inquiring, non-confrontational way if it still bugs you but then let it go!

My friend Cindy Buntain, who looks like Tinkerbell, has hide like a rhino! She taught me years ago to shed minor offenses by not letting them stick. When words or actions that might irritate or wound others would come her way, she simply assumed they were unintended or that she had misread the situation. She let it go before it could take root. She was almost always right and didn’t waste valuable energy gnawing on possible grievances.

B. RESOLVE (category 2) LEGITIMATE WOUNDS

If someone has disappointed you, abused you, betrayed a confidence, or broke a promise and it is unresolved, now is the time to let it go. Use one or all of the five “go” principles:

  1. Go —  you take the first step, no matter who started it (see Matt 18:15).
  2. Go alone — keep it private, just between the two of you. Instead of telling anyone else, go directly to the one who has offended you.
  3. Go to reconcile the relationship — make sure that everything you say points toward a restoration of the friendship. That will keep you from attacking, accusing, belittling, or worse.
  4. Go now — don’t wait. If you are aware of it, that’s a sign you need to deal with it ASAP.
  5. Let it go — if you’ve done everything you can but the other person refuses to reconcile, you need to walk away. The only person you can change is yourself. (see Rom 12:18)

My most recent experience with this involved myself and one of my sisters. In this instance, things were said and done by both of us that created a painful rift in our relationship. Because she lives in another city, I held on to my hurt, was in denial about my culpability, and ignored God’s nudges to make things right for a few years. Yes I am ashamed of that.

In a prayer room in Jerusalem (Israel) God got my attention. I was astonished at how quickly and easily I was able to forgive in my heart and let it go. I was flooded with peace and love for my sister. I knew that it didn’t matter anymore whether or not she ever apologized for anything. I didn’t need her apology since the hurt was gone and in it’s place was love.

Immediately I began to make small movements toward restoration. Not surprisingly it took some time because my sister had to learn to trust me again. I had broken that trust and this was a natural consequence. To my surprise and joy, she eventually sent me a beautiful e-note asking my forgiveness.

I have more often had to ask forgiveness than extend it. At one point I considered writing a form letter so I would have something on hand! Seriously, as far as I know, I have tried to repair and restore any relationship that has been harmed by me or by others in relationship with me. Everyone, every single one, has accepted my apology and allowed me back into their heart. If I have any enemies, I am (blissfully) unaware. Feel free to message me in private if you want to steal my joy….

C. FORGIVE (category 3) LIFE-SHATTERING INJUSTICES

If you have experienced this, you have my deepest sympathy and respect. I will never forget the woman who stood in line at my book table to buy a book and have me sign it (I thought) but when it was her turn she blurted out, “my five-year-old grandson was killed last week!” I leapt to my feet, reached across the table and grabbed her. We both just hung onto one another and bawled. “I’m so sorry” was all I could say over and over.

Hybels invites you to continually move toward forgiveness with the Holy Spirit’s help. He suggests that this is a difficult, complex, but rewarding journey of faith. Like any long journey, we need to follow mile markers:

MILE MARKER 1: NAME WHAT HAPPENED

I have never experienced a C3 injury like the loss of a child but the closest I came to it was when my mother was sexually assaulted in the middle of the night in her own home. Mom was a fairly new widow and was dying of cancer herself. Her preschool granddaughter was asleep in another room and my mother was horrifically aware of the danger that child was in should she awake and reveal her presence to the attacker.

As I write these words I realize I have never even considered forgiving that man. I considered some other things that I can’t print, but forgiveness? Not for a second. Crap. Seriously????

MILE MARKER 2: IDENTIFY WHAT YOU LOST

Hybels says that eventually we have to move from what someone did to us to what we lost as a result.

What did I lose? That’s a tough one. It was 25 years ago, we had small children and lived 3000 km away from my mom. I guess I lost the assurance that my mom was safe in her own home in her final days. And there was nothing I could do about it. I felt scared for her and helpless. I may have lost trust in God as well. I was still young enough in life and faith to assume that God’s job was to protect us from all harm. He was obviously asleep at the wheel, I thought.

MILE MARKER 3: BE OPEN TO FORGIVENESS

Once you have given yourself sufficient time to grieve the sadness of your loss, you will eventually be ready to say yes to the possibility of forgiveness. 

As I said, my mom passed away many years ago and this horrific event got buried deep inside me. Hybels suggests a prayer to those who feel ready.

Here goes: Father, forgive him; and help me to forgive him too. I release my right to exact revenge. I release my desire for control. Forgive him; for he knew not what he did. 

I know that I am not ready nor do I want to see that man’s face in my lifetime; but in my heart, I sense a release of something foul that I didn’t even know was there.

If you’re still with me, thank you for allowing me to pull back the curtain on a dark scene. Thank you for sharing my journey of healing. Please join the conversation in the comment boxes below so that others can benefit from your experiences.

 

 

 

 

Posted in focus on faith

Take This Job and Love it!

imagesHow satisfied are you with your job? Bill Hybels asks in Chapter Four of his book Simplify. Welcome back to the fifth instalment of my blog-crawl. Hybles wrote Simplify to combat and inform our tendency toward overwork, exhaustion and over-scheduling. The purpose of the book is to outline healthy practices that will uncomplicate our lives and lead us toward peace.

Finding fulfilment at work, says Hybels, has the power to simplify your life in a number of key ways:

  1. Energy: if you love your job, time flies and it energizes you; a job you hate sucks the life right out of you.
  2. Peace: a job with a healthy culture, well-defined roles, clear directions, and properly assigned responsibility levels brings satisfaction because you can focus on the work without having to fight the system. This brings peace at work and in your after-work hours. By contrast, a job filled with conflict, frustration, poor decisions, chaos, inefficiency and an emotionally toxic environment creates an inner turmoil that robs you of peace at work as well as after-hours.
  3. Self-confidence: a job you love boosts your self-esteem in healthy ways; a miserable job eats away at your self-confidence through ingratitude, petty jealousy, disregard, lack of respect, lack of development, and an invisible ceiling you cannot get past.

So how do you find a job you love so much it will simplify your life? Hybels asks and answers this question — get ready for some babble-speak: I find it helpful to filter the role or position through four foundational alignments: passion, culture, challenge, and compensation. Huh? You mean I can’t just quit my job tomorrow and trust God to lead me directly into a high-paying, appropriately challenging, fun-to-do job in a company surrounded by other fun-loving, highly motivated hipsters?! Dang!

Here are the four alignments you need to consider when assessing your current job or looking for a new one:

  1. Passion: clearly identify your God-given passion and find a job that aligns with it. If you don’t know how to identify your vocational passion, read Let Your Life Speak by PJ Palmer.
  2. Culture: bad culture + passion for the work = no peace! In other words, think beyond the “what” you do, and consider where and with whom you work. If you find yourself in a toxic environment that cannot or will not change, look around for a better job placement.
  3. Challenge: Where do you do your best work? Not when you are under-challenged or dangerously over-challenged, Hybels says. No surprise there. But this did surprise me: not when appropriately challenged either! He invents a new category — appropriately challenged-plus. Here, you feel an excitement, a need for God, a need to work as a team. You’re in just enough over your head that you must swim hard and fast–but you’re not drowning.
  4. Compensation: Think beyond the paycheque here. Compensation includes satisfaction as well as cash. If passion and pay align, lucky you! If pay is low but passion is high, Hybels says supplement your income. If pay is high and passion is low, use that extra cash to fund your passion.

And finally, Hybels testifies that as a young man, God tapped him on the shoulder and called him into the ministry as a pastor. Already well-established in the business world, Hybels brushed Him off for two years, then rather skeptically decided to follow God and see. Forty years later it is abundantly clear God knew what He was doing! His point is, no matter what your current job is, if God is calling you into a vocation take the risk and follow Him.

ACTION STEPS: ASSESS YOUR ALIGNMENTS. This is where you can peek into the confessional as I work through these steps myself. Feel free to stop reading now since the chapter’s “meat” is above.

Passion Alignment: My job(s) fit well with my passions. I have several part-time jobs: homemaker, caregiver (grandkids), speaker, and writer. Some take more time and effort than others and I would not want to promote any of them to full-time. What works best for me is the variety so that no one role is burdensome.

Culture Alignment: I work either with family or people, mostly women, who pay me to travel to their locale. At home, I have a great deal of influence on the culture so if it’s bad, I (should) take the blame and try to improve it. In my travels, I am not any one place long enough to be overly influenced by culture. If it’s bad, I can soon leave. If it’s good, I enjoy it!

Challenge Alignment: At home, I am under-challenged mentally but I have the freedom, at any time, to up the ante and learn something new. On the road speaking, I was dangerously over-challenged for more than a decade due to my phobic fear and panic disorder (more about that in the Fear chapter). Now that I have conquered the fear I suspect I may need to work harder at developing new material in order to keep the level of challenge in the “needing God” zone. Another possibility is a complete role/job change where I would once again have to battle hard to achieve success. (That was not a prayer, God!)

Compensation Alignment: Lucky me, I have a sugar daddy. Not everyone does. Neither Gerry nor I have been driven by the pursuit of wealth. I can’t say I particularly enjoyed the years of penury when Gerry was finishing his education, but we have found a nice balance where we have a comfortable lifestyle and the ability to help others and fulfill our responsibilities. Plus we have the job-perk of paid travel so our lifestyle doesn’t truly reflect our wealth, or lack of.

Overall assessment: I am so well aligned a chiropractor would use my x-ray as a model! How about you?