Archive | July, 2011

Housing Spots Available!

18 Jul

Spread the word: there are still openings in both the men’s and the women’s houses!  If you or anyone you know is interested in moving into Vision 16 and exploring life and faith in the context of community, click HERE.  Jump on it, jump on it!


Calling–Where Does the Christianese End?

13 Jul

You all have heard it a thousand times: “I really felt called here,” or “Where is God calling you right now?” or maybe the most painful and cringe worthy: “I think God is calling me to break up with you.”

“Calling” is an oft-thrown around word that is loaded with meaning but infrequently defined.  It can be a blanket term thrown out to imply that something besides one’s own interests are at play.  Each time I hear someone use the word “calling,” the cynic in me is dying to know what they are hiding…Are they not confident enough to make a decision?  Do they think that God despises our desires and passions?  Did they really hear God tell them to break up?  Why dress up their decision in God-talk?

While I may be sick of this Christianese code-word, I don’t think that it should be thrown out.  What needs to happen, rather, is to come to a better understanding of calling.

When I read the Bible I see “calling” used mainly in two ways.  Paul says that he was “…called to be an apostle…” and that the Gentiles are “…called to belong to Jesus Christ.” (Romans 1).  Within this short section we have Paul saying that he was called vocationally and that the Gentiles were called to belong to Christ.  There is the specific calling and the general calling.  This rings true with me.  We are all called to love God, love our neighbor, live generously, love those on the margins, and care for what God has given and created. We are told to “be worthy of the calling you have received.”  At it’s most basic level, it’s an invitation for all of us to live in relationship with Jesus.  There is also a personal calling.  For Paul, it was to be an apostle.  We are told to make our “calling and election sure,”   God made this perfectly clear when he blinded Paul on the road to Damascus and spoke this calling quite starkly.  I don’t think Paul had to think too much about that call: the blinding light and voice of Jesus were enough.

So each one of us must live in the freeing calling (or invitation, if you prefer) of relationship with Jesus.  We don’t need to continually be worrying about the specifics (Am I called to eat eggs or toast for breakfast?) but focus on pressing into who Jesus calls us to be: loving, compassionate, just, humble, and merciful (just to name a few).  I think that as we live into this calling, God will make it clear when we are called to something more specific; and in the meantime, let’s be cautious of our Christianese so that we don’t strip powerful words of their meaning.

Thoughts?  How have you experienced a calling in your life?

Life to the Full

1 Jul

Last night Heather Valencia (Vision 16 board member, community member, and mother)  and I were driving back from a planning meeting for the Malibu Leadership Weekend, and in a delightful conversation that touched on passion, mountains, Union Gospel Mission, and books, we spoke of freedom and what makes us feel alive.  Heather, one of the kindest and most generous  people I know, related to me stories of sharing life with people at the UGM and how in those times and relationships she comes to life.  She is in her sweet spot on Tuesdays and Thursdays hanging out at the mission.  Sitting in the passenger seat I could feel the excitement and passion radiate from Heather; the limits of language were blown through by the unrestrained smile on her face and glimmer in her eye.  As Irenaeus put it “The glory of God is a human being fully alive,” and in that car ride I was witness to God’s glory in Heather.

As I marinated in Heather’s words and state of being I couldn’t avoid the question,  What makes you come alive, Ryan?  I was quickly transported to the Coast Mountains of B.C., where I was guiding students through forests and across glaciers, all the while speaking freely and honestly about life and faith.  We shared meals and laughed; we hiked for long hours with muscles screaming, all the while exploring not just the wilderness of the mountains, but the wilderness of the soul.  In those moments I felt so alive, so full!  And I felt the glory of God, too.

There is danger here; danger in thinking that to be alive we must be doing something special or be somewhere particularly appealing to us.  The key is to find what those experiences and places draw out of us.  For Heather, it is the honesty and realness in her relationships with the guys at the Mission.  For me, my desire for deep interpersonal connection, adventure, and leadership were all being tapped.  So what at first took the mountains of BC to draw out of me, I can now access here in “normal life” in the city.

I believe that when you and I live into who we are, who we were created to be, we see the glory of God before us.  We are free, and in our freedom we give others permission to live freely.  What a gift! It is what Jesus wants for us when he says “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”  French philosopher, journalist, and winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, Albert Camus put it this way:  “The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

So what brings you to life?  When have you known fully who you are and loved that person?  When have you felt free?   Leave a comment; sharing our experiences with others can be such a gift.