Friday, July 30, 2010

What is your purpose? Part II - Seasons

In a recent blog post, we had a look at “What is your purpose? We explored three areas that you need to explore your God given purpose.  God wants you to make a significant contribution to our world through your career, your personal life and your Church ministry.  Over the course of our life we will change jobs, hobbies and ministries many times.  We can think of these periods as seasons, just like the seasons of the weather. 

  • Spring: We need seasons for preparation and growing.  The spring seasons in our life can be exciting but it also require a lot of patience. Perhaps you are doing further study for a new position in ministry or a new job.  In our personal life we go through “spring cleaning” when we want to create space for a new activity to enter. 
  • Summer: We all have season of busyness.  If your career, hobbies and ministry all seem to be firing up you can feel great because you are achieving a lot.  In our busy seasons we can also feel that we are really living during the summer seasons of our life.
  • Autumn: We all go through seasons of decline.  Our career, personal life and ministry can’t be constantly growing.  Sometimes we loose momentum or perhaps we are ready for a change.  How we manage our autumn seasons can really determine the productivity of our next spring.
  • Winter: We all need a seasons of rest every once in a while.  We all need to take a break and regain our energy levels.  God wants us to take a weekly Sabbath (Sunday) and we should take a regular sabbatical.  How long since your last resting season?

If you were to look at each of the three areas below, could you see alignment in the seasons?  Perhaps you are living the perfect life because you have a good balance of the seasons in your life.  Or perhaps you are fast approaching burn out and the seasons you are in are warning you of what is coming.  To continue to fulfil your God given purpose you should ask yourself these three questions:

  1. What season is your career in? If you want your career to reach its God given potential, you have to have seasons of rest so you can be productive during each growth season.  Plan out your year so that your career matches the seasons you go through.  Become aware of the seasons in your career to maintain your purpose for longer.
  1. What season is your personal life in? There are seasons for growth and seasons for loss.  Remember that there is a time for every season under Heaven.  When you take care of yourself, you will be in a much better position to make a significant contribution to our world.
  1. What season is your Church ministry in?  You will be going to Church every week for the rest of your life.  It would be boring if there weren’t changes.  You need spring times to keep you growing spiritually.  Whilst we would rather avoid the dry times, even the Saints went through dry times with God.  The key to finding your God given purpose in the Church is to find the ministry that gives you life rather than drains life.

Please leave a comment.

Friday, July 23, 2010

What is your purpose?

In a recent blog post, we had a look at “what fires you up?  We had a look at our passions, the things that we are discontent with and things that we enjoy doing.  There is a sense that many things could fill any one of these categories.  Over a life time there will many things that we are passionate about and many things we will get involved in.  But how do we narrow our focus to one key purpose for our life?

If we look at famous people they can be know for one key purpose that they undertake.  Mother Teresa did many things but her driving purpose was the poor people on the streets of Calcutta.  St Ignatius did many things in his life but his driving purpose was the establishment and growth of the Jesuits.

Whilst we may not achieve fame and fortune in our own life, God wants us to do something significant with our life.  Here are three areas where you need to define your purpose in life:

  1. What is the purpose of your career? We can move from job to job but what is driving your decision about which job to stay in?  Many people chase money or status in their career but never find true fulfilment.  To really find meaning in your career you must find the jobs that match your life’s purpose.  If you find yourself in job that doesn’t give meaning to your life, God might be calling you onto other things.  To find the purpose of your career, take the lead from three areas in the post “what fires you up?”.

  1. What is the purpose of your personal life? Again there are many hobbies or interests that you will have in your personal life, but some of them are not where you make a significant contribution to society.  In your personal life you should spend your valuable spare time making a difference in the community.  You should spend your spare time with a sense of purpose rather than distraction or entertainment.

Have you ever asked someone why they give up hours each week to a “hobby”?  My father will spend most weekends umpiring baseball because he feels he can make a difference in the sport.  Many people take on coaching or umpiring positions in sport so they can make a difference.  Many people commit years of time to community service agencies such as the Bush Fire Brigade so they can make a difference.   How is your personal life making our society a better place?

  1. What is your purpose in the Church?  There are many things that need your time in our Church.  There is always more work to be done in your ministry.  The people who get burnt out in ministry are often people who are taking on too much.  If you look at people who spend decades serving the Church they usually have narrowed their focus to their main purpose in the church.  For example there are catechists who have served for 30 year because they are passionate about children in state schools.  For a given season you might serve in a ministry that really needs you, but to serve the Church for your entire life, you have to answer the question “what is your purpose in the Church?”

Perhaps you are going through a season where your purpose in all three of these areas has alignment.  On the other hand perhaps you are going through a season where your purpose is unclear in all three areas.  Whatever your situation is, pray that God will lead you to make a significant contribution in your career, personal life and the Church.  

Please leave a comment.

Friday, July 16, 2010

What fires you up?

I was at a conference recently when the speaker, Robert Fergusson, said “fire overcomes fear every time”.  At first I was puzzled.  Robert went on to say that anyone who is really fired up about their subject matter will be able to overcome any fear they have of public speaking.  Anyone pumped up enough about an extreme sport will be able to overcome the fear the task should naturally raise in someone.  So the best way to overcome your fear is to stay focused on achieving your goal.

Many of us have at least one fear within our ministry, what if it doesn’t work?  What if I can’t get support? What if I can’t find resources to make it work?  What if nobody comes?  Yet if we take this image of “fire overcomes fear”, when you are passionate enough (fired up) you will overcome your fears.  So in ministry how do we get “fired up” in a positive way?  Here are three simple questions:

  1. What are you passionate about? When someone doesn’t want doing a certain job you can always tell.  The check out operators at my local supermarket don’t want to be there.  Yet when someone is passionate about their subject, topic or ministry it has a natural pulling power.  When I hear someone speak passionately about their mission trip I want to book my plane ticket right away.  When you are passionate about your ministry it fires up the other people around you.
How can your passion move people from caring about your ministry to helping in your ministry?

  1. What are you discontent with? Is there some problem that makes you a little angry?  Do you ever wonder why nobody is doing anything to fix it?  We all have things that we feel need to be fixed, solved or corrected.  You might be the solution to a problem.  This discontent with how things are may give you an insight into what might fire you up.  If you can align your “holy discontent” with your ministry then you are more likely to overcome the fear of running the ministry. (find out more about this here)
How can you use your discontent to find a positive solution to a problem?

  1. What do you enjoy doing? After almost 20 years in youth ministry people ask me why I still work with teenagers.  Because I enjoy youth ministry I find it gives me energy to keep going.  The people that I admire are those who work in children’s ministry; they have so much energy and patience.  People in ministry stay around longer when they enjoy what they are doing.  Perhaps you need to look at the specific tasks within your ministry that you enjoy doing; do more of that.  Have a look at the specific tasks that drain you of energy and see if you can delegate those to someone else.
How can you do more of what you enjoy doing and delegate the rest to others?

There are obviously parts of every ministry that are hard to handle.  Yet someone will still need to do them for your ministry to succeed.  Perhaps instead of enduring or fearing them, in the future you can stay fired up about your passions and enjoy your ministry.

Please leave a comment.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Building castles or pitching tents?

We have an article by guest author Francis Voon from the Parish Support Unit.  If you have a story or idea for the blog, please contact Mark McDonald via email

The word castle is derived from the Latin meaning 'fortified place.' Originating around the 9th Century in Medieval Europe, castles were fortified, multi-purpose structures. They provided defensive protection from enemies and were bases from which raids could be launched. They were centres of administrative rule and symbols of power which individual lords built to control the people, travel routes and natural features of the surrounding areas. 

Castles were designed with polygonal or concentric defence walls and in the 12th century, towers were added, enabling soldiers to defend and attack with flanking fire. Other design elements that were once military tactics, such as moats, became divorced from their simple usefulness as they evolved into symbols of power with the intention to impress and frighten off enemies.

In the 15th century, gunpowder artillery became powerful enough to break through stone walls, and so new structures were devised which made castles uncomfortable and undesirable places to live. As a result, they went into decline. From the 18th century onwards, there was a renewed interest in mock castle construction which had no military purpose.

Let us contrast these mighty, solid, unmovable fortresses with the simple dwellings of the ancient Israelites. When Moses took his people from one desert to another, they were essentially nomadic, picking up tents, setting down tents, rolling away tents, pitching tents. Even God’s tabernacle, where the presence of the Lord ‘dwelled’, was a movable tent (see Ex 40:36-38) – not surprising then, that the word ‘tabernacle’ derives from the Latin meaning ‘tent’!

As they dwelt in tents and moved constantly, they could not farm crops. So for sustenance they had to rely, not on the work of their hands, but completely on God. They met to gather manna from heaven, give thanks to God, partake of God’s free gifts and continue on their journey. (Eucharistic overtones, anyone?!) Quite simply, tent-living invited the Israelites to trust in God alone, live together in community, and be ready to move whenever the presence of the Lord indicated it was time to go on.

Perhaps there are valuable lessons to be learnt from castles and tents. There are certainly many questions the two contrasts raise that we can ask ourselves. Are we soldiers defending the castles of our own belief? Or are we pilgrims moving with the presence of God?

Do we become swept up in building fortifications as we battle to defeat others in ‘apologetics’ raids? Do we preach from high flanking towers of morality while turning blind eyes to abuses of power within the human structures of our church ever in need of repentance?

Do we build elaborate but empty moats of outward religious observance that are designed to impress others of our Catholicism? Or do we eagerly respond to relationship building with God as we practice looking for God in the ‘manna’ of our very lives?

Can we learn to leave our safe, immovable, forts of stone? Can we share the journey with others God blesses with along our path (even though the dwellings from which they come are made of straw, cardboard or mud?!)

Pope John XXIII said in his opening speech to the Second Vatican Council that “our duty is not just to guard this treasure [of the Truth of the Good News of Jesus Christ], as though it were some museum-piece and we the curators, but earnestly and fearlessly to dedicate ourselves to the work that needs to be done in this modern age of ours.”

Together, let us have the courage to pray: Journey with us, Lord, as we live in the messy, temporary tents of a pilgrim, wholly dependent on your gifts, calling others to join us as we continue to walk the path towards making your kingdom come. Amen!