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“What is God Calling Me To Do?”

“What is God calling me to do?”  If I had a nickel for every time I asked myself that question I would have that vacation home I’ve dreamed about for so long.  For many years I questioned whether or not something was wrong with me because, unlike so many around me, I felt no calling on my life.  I felt as if I were drifting through life, working to pay the bills, feeling angry that I couldn’t find my passion, my calling.  Many nights were spent in tearful prayer, begging God to reveal a plan for my life.  I kept thinking, “There has to be more to life than this.”   I couldn’t escape the feeling that God created me for something greater than just aimless living, that surely I had a purpose.

I can’t tell you that I have answered this question of “what God is calling me to do.”  If you google this question you will find many who have attempted to answer this, and many more who are seeking answers.  So many of us want an easy answer, we want to see it in black and white – a billboard on our highway of life, “Mikel, you should ______ – Love, God.”  If only.
It’s not that easy, however, there is beauty in that.  There is much to be learned in the journey, whatever that journey looks like.  By not limiting my identity or purpose to one thing, my “calling” if you will, I have been able to live a myriad of experiences.  I have learned so much about myself.  I have discovered I am stronger than I ever believed I could be.  I have learned to depend on other people more than makes me comfortable.  I have learned to expect the unexpected and to never get so comfortable that I become complacent.  I have learned to stop comparing my callings to other people and I have learned that even those who think they have life figured out, are just as lost as the rest of us.
The danger in trying to answer the question of “what is God calling me to” is that we often forget the live the life that we were given.  We forget that God is speaking to us in the quiet, in the chaos, in the mess, in the emptiness.  We can forget that we have an opportunity to live our best lives where ever we are.  We can get so caught up in the searching we don’t realize that we are already at our destination, and that our destination can change as we change.
We tend to make things more complicated than they are.  I’m as guilty as anyone.  However, I have learned to find peace in my uncertainty in knowing that there are really only three things we need to worry about: Love God, Love others, Love yourself.  If we can manage that, even to a degree, the rest will fall into place.  Enjoy the journey.

13087918_10154164251769938_6289861413863975931_nMikel is the woman behind Zach’s beard.  She made from peppermint mocha, Christmas cheer, and adventure.  Mikel lives in North West Montana with her wonderful husband and kids.  She loves a good adventure and being in the mountains.  (Don’t tell anyone but I’m pretty sure she’s Wonder Woman!)

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Make Someone Smile Every Day

Zach asked that I, as a bearded non-theologian, Google “What is God calling me to do” and react to the 15,800,000 search results.  I am afraid, dear readers, Zach didn’t know what he was getting into asking me to do this.

At first look, 15,800,000 search results seem overwhelming until you compare it to the population of the USA at 325,244,591 people (5% of the population) and even less when compared to the world’s population of 7,600,000,000 people (.2% of the population).   When evaluated as percentages of populations, those search results don’t seem as overwhelming to me.  It is undeniable that people are searching for answers and direction in their life, but what does this mean?  What do we do?  I will be honest with you: I don’t know.

I am admittedly not a religious person and I don’t know I would consider myself a spiritual person.  I am not someone that has motivational quotes hanging around my house or office nor do I have any sayings that I live by.  I do have two thoughts that have stayed with me a long time that I will share that I think help answer the question “What is God calling me to”.  Hopefully, it will resonate with a reader or two.  If not, I blame Zach.

When I watched the movie The Book of Eli I had no clue what it was about.  I knew that Denzel Washington was in it and I generally enjoy his acting.  The entire movie I was trying to figure out what book could possibly be so important that he went to the lengths he did to protect it and deliver it to its destination.  Of course, at the end of the movie we learn it was the Bible, but that is not what stuck with me.  After the book had been delivered, Solara told Eli she never thought he’d give up the book because it was too important to him.  He replied that it was, but he got so caught up in protecting it he forgot to live by what he learned from it.  Solara asked him what that was and it’s his reply to this question that I think answers the question at hand:

 

 To Do More for Other Than You do for Yourself

 

I read an article several years ago about the importance of paying compliments to people when you like something about them, what they did, etc.  While the article covered a lot of ground, my take away from the article was a piece about always complimenting someone, especially a child, when you like the shirt they are wearing.  The author’s point, in short, was everyone gets dressed with purpose each day so an affirmation of their style choices will bring a smile to their face.  After reading that, I aimed to tell at least one person each day that I liked something they were wearing.  My only rule for myself was I had to mean it when I said it.  Not surprisingly, the author was correct.  I don’t believe I have paid a compliment to one person on their shirt, hat, shoes, tattoo, whatever and they didn’t smile when I did so.  Smiles tend to be like yawns in that they are contagious.  They would smile, I would smile and maybe someone around us joins in on the conversation and smiles as well.  Plainly, it feels good to make someone smile.  This one doesn’t wrap up as nicely as the Book of Eli quote, so we will call it:

 

Make Someone Smile Every Day

 

I don’t profess to be much more than a bearded non-theologian, but if I were to offer an answer to life’s biggest question, It would be that your happiness can be found in the service and happiness of others.  This is something instilled in me from a young age by my parents and I continue to find it to be truer every day.


23798220_1894676887529031_1721846366_oThomas Wilson somehow managed to find a woman (Susan) to marry him and have two children (Stockton and Marley) with him. In his spare time, he binge-watches shows on Netflix and swears he will catch up on his backlog of audible books. He recently received the news that he may be a bearded theologian, after all. Thomas holds records in the Youth Baseball League -Coach Pitch, for the number of perfect games thrown in a season (8) and the number of batters hit by pitch (9) in a single game.

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Puff Sleeve Theology -6 Tips to Discover Your Calling

Two months ago, I moved back into my old room at my dad’s house – totally living the millennial dream, folks – and I discovered that my brother had convinced my dad to subscribe to Netflix. If you knew my dad, a man who refuses to use electric or gas heat in the winter because it is expensive, you would understand this feat might as well have been Harry Potter level witchcraft.

While I still have not unraveled the mystery of how my brother arranged this, it means my dad has access to the internet and Netflix. It also means, by extension, that I have access to the internet and Netflix. Since winter is coming and I live in a cold house, this is an exorbitant luxury for which I am extremely grateful…and last night, I discovered the Netflix original series, Anne with an E. As a child I loved these books, so naturally I had to watch the first episode.

It was beautifully done, but what struck me most as an adult is this little girl’s obsession with puff sleeves. She is absolutely maniacal about these sleeves, y’all. She wants them so much she speaks about them incessantly, and I feel like every other scene mentions these blasted sleeves.

(At this point, if you are wondering how Anne with an E has anything to do with God’s calling, we’re almost there.)

She is obsessed to the point she cannot let go of the possibility that one day these sleeves will adorn her tiny shoulders. She talks about them to others, imagines how they will look, and requests them at the first opportunity in her new home. Anne might be a childish fictional character, but her behavior reflects our own. When we want something badly enough, we obsess over it. We talk about whatever our obsession is constantly to anyone who will listen, we research it, we imagine it over and over again, and we often idealize it.

This connection between Anne and our own obsessive nature led me to a question. What kind of responses would I find, if I became obsessed with determining my calling? Would the answers I found be helpful or inspiring? What would I learn, if I googled – What is God calling me to do?

What I found were surprisingly well written recommendations that would help guide someone away from being merely obsessed to being meaningfully focused on discerning his or her calling.

These are the top four tips I discovered from googled blogs and articles:

  • Pray: You should be talking to God about your calling at least as much as Anne talks about puff sleeves. God does not grow weary of this conversation, so have it often.

 

  • Dive into scripture and listen carefully to what compels your heart to action: God wants you to know your purpose and fully live the abundant life Christ gives. Often the best way to discover your calling is simply to read God’s word and embrace the pieces of scripture that stir you to make the world a better place, to seek justice for those who are oppressed, and to serve as a witness of God’s amazing love.

 

  • Acknowledge that your job does not have to be your calling and that is acceptable: Your calling is far more than a profession or trade. Do your best not to limit God by determining that your calling and your job must be synonymous. God has been known to use a volunteer or two. Last time I checked Exodus, Moses didn’t get paid to drag the Israelites out of Egypt. Noah didn’t receive a commission for every animal he welcomed onto the ark and Lydia wasn’t on the clock when she provided hospitality to Paul. In fact, her secular job is what allowed her to live into a calling outside the realm of her professional work.

 

  • Trust God to help you discover your calling, but try not to be discouraged if God does not provide something tailored just for you: Our greatest calling is simply to be a disciple, who loves God and our neighbors. God might not call you to be a specialist, but God calls each of us to be practitioners of our faith. God calls us all to serve as a witness of Christ’s love and grace. The calling of discipleship transcends everything else.

 

When we are as obsessed as Anne is with puff sleeves, however, we rarely stop with Google. As I have tried to discern my calling, with my own Anne-like tendencies, I have discovered two additional recommendations that are completely obvious, but no less helpful.

 

  • Talk to other people about your calling: Family, friends, and mentors who know you best can often see your calling before you do. Listen to their words of wisdom and ask them to pray for your discernment. Lastly, listen to the people God puts on your path. God does an amazing job of confirming our gifts, talents, and calling when we listen.

 

  • Your calling can change: This is not a heretical statement. While our call to discipleship will not change, the ways in which God uses us for higher purposes can evolve and that transformative process, no matter how unnerving, can be God ordained.

I believe when our obsession with finding the “perfect” answer to the question of calling ends, then God can do the transformative work required to guide us in our callings…so let go of your perfect puff sleeves and enjoy the journey. I promise, whether you are a specialist or a disciple at-large, living your calling will be the greatest adventure of your life.


19732366_847958712354_4601996656973187886_nMy name is Leia, which should tell you that my dad’s favorite movie is Star Wars and I have some very unfortunate nicknames. I studied International Relations in undergrad and couldn’t find a job to save my life, so I changed my plans and studied communications in graduate school.  After 7 years in communication, fundraising, and development serving five conferences and a short stint in fundraising consulting, I have been given the amazing opportunity to return home. Now, I am serving the Arkansas Conference of The United Methodist Church in communications and I am beyond thrilled about this gig!  Currently, in my spare time, I am teaching my dad how to check his voicemail on his new smartphone.

 

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The Kentucky Fried Chicken Incident!

 

We can be anywhere and witness God, even in a fast food restaurant.  The question is:  Are you observant enough to know it when you see it?  

As Christians, we often go through life, wearing crosses or making some display of our faith to the public, but if someone asked you the question:  How does the fact that Christ died on the cross affect you on a daily basis?  How would you respond?   99% of people that profess to be Christians don’t know what Christ’s crucifixion provided us on a daily basis.  I saw this on a TV show recently, a researcher trying to figure out the reason that attendance is down in churches nationwide, asked that question of hundreds of professed Christians.  They had an overwhelming response of silence. (You know, when the editor of the TV story puts in the sound of crickets chirping in the darkness and the video does a close up on their blank expressions!) They know why they are Christians, because He died for us to receive eternal life in heaven.  But they didn’t know how that gift affected them in their daily lives.  

I thought on that for a while.  It is not an easy question to answer right away.  Your first thought is salvation, but we don’t witness it daily – or do we?   

Last Saturday, my family was sitting in Kentucky Fried Chicken.  It was early for the lunchtime, and the crowd hadn’t shown up yet.  We were the only ones sitting in the restaurant, and there were 4 employees in the cooking area relatively bored.  A man looking to be about 20 to 30 years old walked up to the counter.  He was cleanly dressed in fairly fashionable clothes.  He asked for a certain employee.  They asked if they could say who was asking for this girl, and he said, “No one of importance, I just want to thank her.”  This caught our attention, and we couldn’t help listening.  We were sitting in the closest table to the counter.  The girl came up to the counter, a co-worker stayed back for her protection, because they watch out for each other.  The man said to the girl, “Do you remember me?  I came in here early in the week and didn’t have the money to pay for my meal, and you paid it for me?”  At first, the girl looked at him as though she was trying to figure out if she really remembered him.  Then her face opened up like she couldn’t believe this man had come back to thank her.  He then handed her an envelope and said again, “ I just want to thank you, I hope you enjoy this” and quickly walked out.  He never spoke his name.  The co-worker looked shocked too and quickly asked the girl what was in the envelope.  She said with a smile on her face, “It’s a Caliche’s gift certificate”.  Caliche’s is a local frozen custard shop.  At that point, my family looked at each other at the table and thought, “Awww, how sweet is that”.  It was sweet of the girl to pay for the man’s meal, and sweet of him to repay her in kindness.  And by the look of this man, he was not homeless or destitute.  How many people would have paid for his lunch in the same way they would help a needy person?  We are often quick to help people who we think are worthy of our money or time based on our need to judge their situation and our need to feel good.  But sometimes, you may not be helping someone who is physically hungry; maybe you are helping someone who is spiritually hungry.  

 

There are at least four lessons here.  One, be quick to do a good deed like the KFC employee did.  Two, be purposeful in repaying kindness.  Three, while passing on the good deed in a pay it forward motion is nice, and keeps the idea of “Good Karma” going, it is also important to thank the individual who was kind to you.  Why?  Because so often, good deeds are overlooked, unappreciated, and taken for granted, and people need to have their good habits reinforced, because if they don’t get that positive feedback, they quit doing those good things and become hard hearted.  God doesn’t want us to become hard rocks, he wants to keep us tender hearted enough to not only know when to react positively, but also be able to witness when others do it.  The fourth lesson is about the man who paid the girl back.  He may have needed to be able to learn how to receive God’s blessings.  He may have needed to have his faith restored with this girl’s act of kindness.  It is obvious that no one works as a fry cook in a KFC if they are financially secure.  So his way of paying her back was sweet because he could have handed her the money, but in her perspective that money was already gone.  So he gave her a sweet treat that she could enjoy in a different location to where she worked.  

It is this witness of small random acts of kindness that we need to see on a daily basis.  This is what keeps our heart well in a spiritual way.  Loving your neighbor is the key to salvation.  An old friend, Fr. Peter Sanderson’s favorite sermon was his shortest.  He said, “Little Children, love one another” and he was done.  He knows it is the key to all things in faith.  If we live in love, we will be walking with Jesus, and we will be on the right path every day of our lives.  It is the key to our salvation.   

I know there are lots of lonely people out there.  I know that telling them Jesus loves them often falls on deaf ears.  But the fact is, we don’t have to be in love, or feel love directly from another person to know what love is.  We can witness love in many different ways.  Witnessing love on any level, from a distance, or seeing an incident in which you yourself are not involved, is how we know God loves us.  That “Aww” moment you feel when you see something really sweet is a reminder that God is near and loves us.  Now, we just have to recognize it and not live with blinders on, look past the distractions and witness God’s love.  

So, if someone asked me on Saturday afternoon, after I got to witness this incident, “How does the fact that Christ died on the cross affect you on a daily basis?”  I could answer like this:  He did it out of love for us, and because of His love for us, we can see love in others.  If we can’t see that, life is hard, so hard, it is not worth living.  Anyone who says they can live without love of someone or something is full of rocks!

Hebrews 6:10 God is not unjust: He will not forget your work and the love you have shown Him, as you have helped his people and continue to help them.  


100_3566Madeleine is a young woman, who at a very young age heard God calling her to mission.  Over the years she has brought God’s love and hope to children who are fighting for their lives in hospitals receiving treatment for various childhood cancers but providing handmade pillows cases and port pillows. She continues to be an inspiration in the lives of youth and adults.

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I’ve Been Called Weird…

I’ve been called weird and odd in my life. They were just labels I accepted early on, because I couldn’t even explain the way I was in a manner that made sense with the rest of the world happening around me. No one could truly lay a claim to understanding me. I was the eccentric friend, brother, son, uncle, husband… At least some people liked me and loved me anyway, right?

I left high school early, only to remove myself from college before getting done. Once I got done with college, I swore I would never go back, only to go back twice over (to this point). My worst class was always math, but math has always been one of my strongest abilities outside of school.

I’ve always had people that made assumptions about things I’ve said or my specific behavior in any situation. Always had trouble with it in school. Thought I had gotten away from it outside of school, but haven’t escaped it when I’ve tried to make professional leaps to better myself and my family. There are grown adults spreading rumors about me just in the past two years because they never took the opportunity to figure out who I was and how everything worked with me.
There was one day that my wife and I were visiting with some friends, and I apparently cut one of them off with a correction in a mean-spirited manner. My wife asked me later what in the world I was thinking, doing that. However, I couldn’t recall that feeling ever being present at the time that occurred. That friend, who is also an educator, later told my wife the more she thought about it, she thought I might be Autistic.

I did what I always do and read everything I could find on the subject. I could see how that would be the case that I would be Autistic, but didn’t do anything further with that information at the time. Being parents of a toddler trumped a lot of things at the time, including this. But those two would dovetail together after we began to suspect that our toddler might also be Autistic.

At a later date, I had a really bad day at work. It felt like I was having a bit of a breakdown, so I sought out a psychologist. In one visit, that psychologist had identified me as Autistic. (To be fair, he said Asperger’s Syndrome, but the current diagnosis standard has everything rolled under the same umbrella as Autism Spectrum Disorder.) So my breakdown that led me to the psychologist could more accurately be described as a meltdown.

In the last 18 months, it’s been tough to walk around quiet about it. Some days, I’m really spent because certain things just violate the sensibilities I have that sometimes only make sense to myself. There have been things that seem to be new issues for me when the truth is I am only just now understanding things that have caused me trouble my entire life.

It’s been an interesting ride at home not only re-learning about me, but also learning about my son in an additional light finding out he is Autistic as well. I’ve also selectively told people I thought would be open-minded.

I share my story now for a few reasons. One, it really is tiring not to share with those that know me best out of everyone. I’ve always been an open book for people, and that still hasn’t changed. Two, the battle amongst the growing Autistic community to dispel the stigma of being Autistic requires education and understanding of others about the troubles gone through to persist in a world not designed for you. I like to make bold moves, so I decided I wanted to jump from one at a time to many
at a time.

A little about Autism:

Autism Spectrum Disorder is a neurotype that is legally classified as a disorder in the United States, as well as many other countries. Diagnoses have spiked in the past decade because the knowledge of what Autism is and isn’t has only just started hitting its stride. Most adults diagnosed as such probably should have been diagnosed as children. There is still a lot being learned about Autism.

The one confirmation the medical community has made about how a person ends up with Autism is that there is a heavy genetic causality.
Autism manifests itself differently in every individual identified as Autistic. Because it can cause a severe effect on development, some Autistics will require assistance the duration of their life. Others may need no assistance because they’ve learned ways to “fit in” to a level where most people would never know how different they really are.

There are some general areas in which Autistics process differently than everyone else.

1. Executive Function: This is the ability to operate every day, doing normal tasks that anyone has to do. This can be a minor or a major issue. For me personally, I operate nominally as long as I have things hammered into a routine. The moment that routine has to change is when my world can get turned upside down, even on the tiniest of things. This is why I like project management. I am a planner!

2. Processing of emotions or emotional information: The stereotype is that Autistics have no emotions. This is untrue. They just process differently. If you allow me to be a fly on the wall, I will have the entire room read in no time flat. However, if you insist I interact and be involved with anyone, it can take me hours to days to process their emotions and what they said. This makes me seem uncaring at the time, and “late to the party” when I revisit something later. Even just a little bit of distance allows me to be more efficient.

3. Sensory Processing: This is something that manifests itself differently for every Autistic person out there. This is something I am even still learning more just about myself. Sound, smell, touch, sight, taste… All these things have the possibility of being hyper-enhanced. I often have issues with sounds that are needlessly loud. They create physical stress reactions. I can function through them, but in the case of attending a college football game where the loudness of the experience (not including the noise produced by the fans in attendance) was indiscriminate, it took me about 3 weeks to recover.

4. Honesty: The saying goes that honesty is the best policy. But that is never held to be true always. Some people will lie, or withhold the truth, to spare feelings. Others will do it to avoid consequences. There are many reasons people will lie. The way Autistic people are wired, they tell the truth…every time…practically. For most Autistic people, they would be bad liars. Manipulative ulterior motives are rarely ever existent for an Autistic who is telling the truth about something. Some people have suggested this is tied back into the emotional processing issues.

5. Meltdowns: Over-stimulation in any area can cause meltdowns. Meltdowns are basically when the brain short-circuits on you. Meltdowns can be loud and messy, especially with, but not exclusive to, younger kids. They can also be very quiet, where someone just shuts down and doesn’t participate in the world for a little bit. Meltdowns go away at some point after the removal of the over-stimulation.

Goals for Autistic people to self-regulate often include exercise, diet adjustments, yoga, and meditation. Goals for “normal” people to be inclusive of Autistics include having an open mind and allowing time (in multiple ways) for whatever the relationship is supposed to be to form, as well as always communicating in the most direct way possible (we don’t normally understand innuendo).

In spite of these differences Autistics have with “normal” people, we often learn things faster, are very loyal (sometimes to a fault), and are already extremely hard workers just trying to keep on par with others in a world not designed for us.
Remember, Autism is a little bit different from person to person. What I would share with you that specifically applies to me may not work in the same way for anyone else. That being said, I am always happy to answer anything I can.


63618_182980491719336_5407577_nTim Brewer is an awesome Husband and Father to his wife and son.  Tim currently lives in the Panhandle of Texas, where the star are bright at night and you can watch your dog run away for three days.  Tim is also a great friend of the Bearded Theologians.