Late night picnic and The Call

Last night was an absolutely wonderful evening for a late night picnic. After the serious heat here the last few weeks, it was a delight to feel the cooler breeze, to sit behind our home, with the bookstore lights glowing out onto the lovely back yard with huge trees. Our house isn’t well-ordered, we’ve got junk too often laying around in places that would lead the casual observer to think I’ve never heard of beauty or truth, let alone love Calvin Seerveld books. (See this monthÕs review over at the website of Rainbows for a Fallen World to see his invitation to take the aesthetic dimension of life more seriously.)
Still, the grill was on, with my son Micah doing the honors, and we had a casual picnic with a gang of friends of the CCO staffer over at Elizabethtown College, the droll and hilarious and brilliant Derek Melleby (who sometimes blogs at Aslan Is On The Move.) I say the group was friends of his; actually, most are friends of ours, too, since he has driven them the 45 minutes here to the shop on many occasions.
Derek and his wife and some other sharp folks connected to their church have been leading a couple of groups of mostly younger adults through a guided reading of Os Guinness’ The Call: Finding and Fulfilling the Central Purpose in Your Life (Word; $17.99.) You may know that this is one of my all time favorite books, an absolutely essential resource for a deep and balanced whole-life discipleship kind of Christian worldview. Written with insight and grace, the CD lectures are Dr. G at his finest. The book is a must-read. Every church library should have a couple of copies and every pastor should recommend it often.
After reflecting on the sense of vocation that the book celebrates, some of the folks in the study group decided that they would want to spend some time talking intentionally with somebody who embodied these kind of truths, who seemed passionate about calling and intentional about vocation. Beth and I were chosenÑfoolishly, perhapsÑto be the case studies. Derek brought the burgers, others brought the fruit and salad and chips. I made a big deal about the fair trade all-organic coffee and as the air grew chilly we told stories about the store. We remember the hopes and dreams of our young adult years, our prayerful discernment of our own vocation, the struggles of the early years (including everything from fundamentalist customers who thought we were satanic for selling Richard Foster or medieval spirituality, my Marxist buddies who hated our pro-life activism or the death threat we got from the KKK for our window display against racism.) We told of the ups and downs of trying to hone our craft as booksellers and our efforts, such as they are, to be faithful to our convictions in the mundane details of display, accounting, advertising and competition. We listened as they tried to tell us what they thought of Guinness (many had come to hear him when we hosted his lecture in the Spring) and together we pondered how to connect conviction and behavior, faith and work, an authentic Christian worldview and the too-often constricting vision of the Christian Booksellers Association, the publicÕs presumptions about religious books and, more generally, the Christian life.
Of course, we ended up with a digression (that maybe wasnÕt a digression at all) about our favorite books, and most beloved novels, what weÕre reading now.
It was a great night for us—I sometimes think DerekÕs group humors me as I try to wax eloquent about trying to be a somewhat different kind of religious bookstore. Beth and I hope they at least enjoyed the backyard breeze.
A quick question that arose but that we didnÕt explore in detail: in what ways are The Call by Os Guinness and The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren similar or dissimilar? And, further, how do either help fund or energize and sustain a lifestyle that is redemptive in the workaday world, especially if one is working in a non-professional capacity (it isnÕt too hard to think purposefully in light of vocation if one is an inner city lawyer or an heroic teacher or compassionate hospice nurse, of course)? Are there some jobs that are so degrading or mindless that one could hardly think of them as holy callings or filled with purpose? There are serious resources that help answer that, I think, but the night was getting late. Any thoughts?

6 thoughts on “Late night picnic and The Call

  1. Okay, I’m a little ashamed to say I haven’t read The Call (the secret’s out!), so I am hardly in a position to compare the two. [note to self: Read The Call, silly girl!].Sounds like you guys had a wonderful time; wish I was there. I would have surely enjoyed your and Beth’s stories of the early days (the KKK? Really??). The compilation of these stories might make for a great book, don’t you think? Hmmm. Now THERE’S a thought.Michele

  2. Well, I’ve not read The Call OR the Purpose-Driven Life, but I have been reflecting lately on the question of whether pursuing a vocation in life is a privilege or not. After all, given the world’s population, there are very few of us (and I count myself among them) that are given the resourses and privileges that help get us to a place where we even have the option of choosing a vocation as opposed to choosing something that will merely keep food on our plates and clothes on our body.Now of course, for some people their vocation may be their family or their community or working with their church, or picking up sea shells along the sea shore, but I think I still believe that even the freedom to take time and consider calling and vocation is a rare privilege that we should be eternally grateful for.

  3. Oh, Byron, that sounds like just the kind of party/discussion/feast and festival that fires up people for a long time! Lovely writing, thank you, reminiscent of staff weekends.Fred J. visited here in late June, and we were saying, about calling, you’d think we’d have something “in place” by this time in our lives, and it’s strange to still be traveling through a string of callings. Or for me, through a collection of small callings– I miss the feeling of a big, undeniable calling, like college ministry, all-encompassing, deeply meaningful. But then where would I fit the small callings, I suppose: a community that is not changing the world, a small church school class, part-time work, and the parenting that fits in all around it. And writing, small-but-funny calling, if it is one– So, topics for fun: “‘calling’ envy,” when callings are small and necessary, doing what needs to be done, when callings don’t “feel” filled with purpose.Glad for your breeze (the holy spirit?) and picnic.

  4. Oh my, comments! From two of my favorite bloggals. And a new/old friend. Thanks. Quickly: yes, read The Call. Yes, the KKK, who is active in these parts; scary. Yes, the breeze was maybe even the Holy Spirit, and, Denise, you would have loved it.And Lara: what a good site you have, and a moving story. (How did you find our site, and are you ever coming back to Pennsylvania?)ByronYour comment about how most people in the world don’t have the luxury to think about these vocation things is so very true and I am grateful for that reminder. (In a way, that is why I asked about certain bluecollar kinds of jobs even in the industrialized West.) In fact, there may be a considerably better chance of having integrated and humane intuition about purpose as a third world village farmer than as a paid tool in a noisy factory.I liked the classic Fred Buechner quote on your site. And your “Christian Dating” description of your longings for good conversations. I hope others from here wander over to your blog.

  5. Lara,It is good to find you here! I really appreciate your perspective on calling, and just all around enjoy your thoughts.Peace,Michele

  6. Byron,Thanks for your kind words and for taking the time to stop by my site. It’s not nearly as academic or intellectual as a lot of blogs out there, but it reveals a large part of my heart for people and for community. I’m hoping to maybe get back to PA to live sometime, although at this point it’s just sortof in the “long-term goals” column of my life. I miss all my wonderful friends in Philadelphia so much though and visit as often as I can.Not sure how I found this page, but when I was at Messiah I knew of Hearts and Minds…. I think once I just saw a link and I’ve continued to come back intermittently.Anyway, feel free to visit me anytime (virtually) and I will be back to read your thoughts on books as well. Peace,Lara

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