Every Job A Parable



So often we read and talk about looking for a break, rest, or a vacation. We long for those as a result of our day-in/day-out work schedules and duties. No one seems to feel there is enough “free time” in the average week or month. Few persons whose  jobs are outside of Christian ministry look at their positions as spiritual or representative of God despite the growing emphasis on “marketplace ministry”.


Into that context, John Van Sloten’s new book, Every Job A Parable, challenges the reader to reconsider work and its value and attributes of God. At the outset he tells the reader the purpose of the book:


“to help kindle a new kind of vocational imagination, to help you experience God at work more, and to help you read the parable that is your job.”


From Van Sloten’s opening chapters to the end of the book his theme looks at what it means to “image God” through work. To illustrate his theme, he identifies attributes of God and then looks at how those line up with various jobs or occupations. As he does so, he shows the value and nature of God in our work from the lowliest positions to the highest and many that fall somewhere in the middle.


In case that makes you wonder what sorts of jobs he is looking at since he is a pastor, let me share a partial list of those he sees clear evidence of his theme. The partial list includes: Wal-Mart greeter, forensic psychologist, residential landlord, electrician, auto mechanic, language translator, homemaker, sweeper, garbage collector, geophysicist, astronaut, food server, and investment banker.


Van Sloten asserts:


“Each of us, through whatever work we do, is made to image God. When we get it right (and none of us fully do) and when our lives are in sync with the way God made us to work (and none of us fully are), every part of who we are – our imaginations, motivations, passions, hopes, dreams, skills, and abilities (even though all of our parts fall short) – has the potential to image him.”


This book gives a unique view of the value God places on work and nearly any occupation the reader might be involved in will show up in the author’s development of looking at every job as a parable. Along the way, he will also point out the evidences of parables of work that show up in the Bible including the sower and the owner of a vineyard.


It can often be easy for a Christian to look at specific ministry jobs as the ideal way to serve and represent the Lord. If that is you, I think this book will offer encouragements to expand your narrow view of how God sees work (of any kind) and give you hope for how He is using you no matter what your position.


To comply with new regulations introduced by the Federal Trade Commission, Tyndale House Publishers provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for my review.





How Do I Show You?

Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park


In my most recent post I posed the question, “How do I know you?” I shared a bit about how we learn to know one another by observing patterns that often evolve into signature moves that we automatically associate with a particular person. They are usually small things, but they become such an identifiable representation of the person that even if that person is at a distance or we have not seen them for quite some time we will recognize them by that signature move.


The powerful quote by Esther Meek about how important it is for us to know God so well that we recognize His signature moves bears repeating here:


“Study God’s ways as the relationship unfolds, not so you can predict the future, but so that you will recognize God when He shows up. Expect to be surprised, but also expect, if you have attended to Him in love, to recognize Him. The Bible is the unfolding drama of the covenant relationship between God and his people. When you read it, you attend carefully so that you get to know God, so that you will know his signature moves, so that you will experience them in your own life.”


As I have been reflecting on her words, another question became evident. How do I show IMG_3897that I know Him?


The question resonates with me because I have been writing my first book. In doing so I am reminded that I need to not only tell the reader what I want them to know, but show them. As a result I have been wrestling with the question of showing for many months now. Showing conveys something more powerfully than simply telling.


Often when I was in school I was reminded when taking a test in math that I needed to show my work, not just put down an answer. I had to demonstrate I didn’t just know a fact or answer but how I arrived at or understood the answer.


IMG_3591Throughout the universe God is clearly showing His work. We can see it when we look up into the night sky and see the cascade of stars strewn across the heavens. We see it in the grandeur of the snowy mountain peaks that reach above the clouds. We also see it in the miracle of the birth of a new baby, in the song a robin sings outside our window. As a matter of fact Paul reminds us of that in Romans 1:20 ESV:


“For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.”


If you have visited my website and looked at some of my photography, you will likely conclude that I am captivated by what He shows us in creation.


The harder question is how do I show that I know Him in my daily life.


How do I show my work of knowing and understanding the Lord?


It can be easier to tell the story of the Gospel and quote the scriptures that inform my claim of knowing Him. Showing or proving that I know Him requires more of me.


Before my retirement as a professional clinical counselor I would often remind the person I was meeting with that if the words and actions did not match, the actions most reflected the truth. That is a true statement because our actions flow out of what is inside of us. Our words can be feigned, phony, practiced, and used as we see fit to present our ideas or ourselves. Actions expose the truth and show us more of what is truly in the heart and mind of the person.


So, the thorny question is how I prove (AKA show) that I know the Lord? I think it callsimg_2190
for more thought than a quick answer. You see, I don’t think going to church proves that I know Him. Many of us went to church before we actually knew Him. I don’t think carrying a Bible or having a Christian bumper sticker proves that I know Him either. Being able to tell you a lot of stories about Him or take you down the “Roman road” does not prove it necessarily.


I think to show it requires the evidence of His work on my heart to be seen in any and all contexts of my daily life.


Bible reading would point to how I love my neighbor as the litmus test. We talk a great deal about love, but to be loving is quite another matter.


If by the Lord’s grace, we have times we succeed (by His measure) and we love, perhaps that is when we show that we know Him. Some of our signature moves will look a lot like His signature moves.


PPP 020




How Do I Know You?


Over the course of our lives we encounter so many different people. Some of them we will never meet and yet we will feel as if we know them. Some of them we will only know casually. A few we will come to know very well.


People enter our lives much like those entering from stage left or right in a theater production. Some will only walk through. Some will stay on center stage for a short time. A few will remain central to the story. How I get to know each one will be unique even as the entrance and exit of each will be different.


I will learn about each person through a variety of means. I may only read about them or read what they have written. Some I will only see in the movies, news clips, or on television or the stage. Others will meet me at crisis points in my life and I will recall them vividly. The few who are central I will come to know the best. I will hear their stories, spend time with them at any number of events, and watch them over time. How much and what I remember will vary.


No matter how I come to know someone, it is likely I will recall at least one of his or her signature moves. Esther Meek, a philosophy professor wrote about how we come to know others better. One of those is this:


“We attend to his or her ways, so that we can come to identify patterns – signature moves, I call them. What are distinctive, reliable, delightful ways that a person has of operating?”


Certainly those we know best and have observed the most are the ones whose signature moves are most familiar, but even those we have not met personally have a signature move we can recall.


I can think of many examples from people we have not met (and most will likely date me), but I will share only one. If you grew up watching Carol Burnett on television, most of you will recall that she always gently pulled one ear lobe at the end of each show. What you may not know is that she started doing it when Carol first got a job on television and her grandmother asked her to say hello to her when she was on air. Carol explained she couldn’t do that, but she could find another way. That gentle tug of her ear lobe was a personal ‘hello’ to Carol’s grandmother, a unique signature move.


I recall patterns of signature moves of my parents who went to be with the Lord 22 years ago. One of my dad’s was how he would often use his right hand at the table as if he were wiping crumbs from the edge of the table after the plates were removed. It was almost an unconscious thing and sometimes my husband catches me doing it. I recall the way my mother rolled out pie dough and her own crimp along the edge of a pie plate and so many other things.


Jesus had signature moves when He walked the earth.


An especially powerful example was what happened on the road to Emmaus with two of his disciples. Scripture tells us they were kept from recognizing Him, but two things, signature moves, demonstrated patterns that brought recognition to the disciples. The first was how their hearts burned within them when He shared of what had been written in the Old Testament about the Messiah. The second was when he broke bread and gave thanks when He shared a meal with them.


Of all the things we may know about a person, those patterns we have observed help us to identify them beyond a shadow of a doubt and allow us to be certain of who they are even if we have not seen them for a very long time.


I wonder if that is one way we might know in heaven those who have been known to us on earth.


Patterns, signature moves, offer us so much to consider.


I especially love a quote by Esther Meek in “Reading the Bible…and Longing to Know”:


“Study God’s ways as the relationship unfolds, not so you can predict the future, but so that you will recognize God when He shows up. Expect to be surprised, but also expect, if you have attended to Him in love, to recognize Him. The Bible is the unfolding drama of the covenant relationship between God and his people. When you read it, you attend carefully so that you get to know God, so that you will know his signature moves, so that you will experience them in your own life.”






What Do You Hold in Your Hand?




When I consider the question, I often look at what I hold physically in that moment in time. Perhaps it is the wooden spoon I am using to stir batter. Perhaps it is the iron as I press a shirt. Perhaps it is my camera, my journal, my Bible, or a favorite book.


For Moses, it was a staff that was used to demonstrate the power of God to Pharaoh. For David, it was a sling and a smooth stone, which felled Goliath. In both these biblical examples, the things were commonplace to the men who used them and yet God used the commonplace to do something extraordinary.


The more serious question I then ponder is what do I consider commonplace or ordinary, why do I view these things in that way, and what might they become when submitted to God?


Gutzon Borglum looked at a mountainside in the Black Hills of South Dakota and IMG_2950envisioned his sculptor’s hands creating what we know as Mt. Rushmore. He used tools that were common to him along with a vision of what they could create even though it had never been done before. He saw something no one else did and created it so we could all see the wonder.


Theodore Roosevelt in an address at Carnegie Hall in 1912 said, “We, here in America, hold in our hands the hope of the world, the fate of the coming years; and shame and disgrace will be ours if in our eyes the light of high resolve is dimmed, if we trail in the dust the golden hopes of men.” He saw something, believed something that was and also was yet to come with both the potential and the responsibility to act wisely with what had been placed in our hands as a nation.


These realities give me pause. What do I hold in my hand that could become extraordinary? What do I see that others may not see and how can I give them a glimpse of it?


 I can only answer that when I risk discovering what it is for me.


Then, I must believe in what I see as Moses, David, Gutzon Borglum, Theodore Roosevelt, and countless others did, but I must also gain courage to act on it and discover in that process what God saw all along.






The Genius of God




The title sounds obvious…a “no brainer”! Everything in creation points to that. He simply spoke and the worlds were created and He spoke again and day and night was divided. He spoke again and the seas and land were settled. He spoke yet again and the seas were filled with all manner of life and animals of every species began to walk the earth and fly above it. But before He rested, He created man.


IMG_0023Humankind was not spoken into existence, but handcrafted. That alone makes us unique and sets us apart from all of Creation. I think it clearly points to a purpose and a plan.


It can only make sense He had a plan for when man would fall. So throughout the Old Testament He began to give hints about the plan, clues that were followed by prophecy after prophecy of the Savior that would come when a part of Him, Jesus, would come in human form to give us all a chance to see and understand the truth. Amazingly, He came with a clear purpose to die. Even though He made that clear to His disciples and those who heard Him speak, they could not believe that was God’s answer for the dilemma mankind faced after falling in Eden.


So many who heard the prophecies and followed the clues did not even recognize He IMG_0024actually had come. They were looking for a King, not a baby born in some barn to an ordinary young couple of that day. That made no sense. Or did it? Was that the evidence of God knowing those who would see and choose Him despite the paradox of His lowly state?


The short three years of the ministry of Jesus were a combination of power-packed messages and miracles and hanging out with those closest to Him. Sometimes that smaller group was eating, other times fishing, and sometimes just walking together. That group who observed Him the most still could not fathom the genius of God that would come from the horrors of crucifixion on the tortuous cross that would conquer death and our sin. Nor could anyone explain the genius of a resurrection that was unheard of or that He appeared to His disciples after that, just showing up in their midst or walking along the dusty road to Emmaus.


IMG_0027I am sure that many had thought that now was the time to set up that kingdom after this miracle of miracles. So many had seen Him die, but to now be alive was the perfect way to start a kingdom, right? No, that wasn’t the genius of God or His plan.


God knew that those who had never chosen His Son would oppose those disciples who did. He also knew of people beyond the confines of the Middle East and His grand plan was to reach them all. One man who was resurrected in time and space could not be in all the places He wanted to reach. So He gave the third part of Him, the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit could indwell the heart of each believer and take up residence in each soul and spirit.


The genius of God was that He made Himself mobile!


As persecution drove the believers to far corners of the world, the Holy Spirit relocated with them, in them. Over time and centuries the seed was carried to places some of us have never heard of. Where there were groups of believers they first gathered around fires, in tents, in huts, and homes, but then as time passed buildings/churches were built for a place to gather and that continues to this day.


But the genius of God is that He requires no building. He has never resided in a IMG_0022building. Wherever any one of us goes who is called by His name, He goes. He created a global network long before satellites and cell towers were even conceived.


And guess what? The genius of God has a plan and purpose for each of us, His disciples and ambassadors.


When you look around and see the chaos, look at the evidence of His clear plans and purposes through the ages. Look at the clues and prophecy about His return for those of us called by His name. Don’t fear.


He is a genius after all and He’s got this!!


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