March 2011

At this point of time in your sabbatical, you have rested, slowed down and exercised your prayer muscles. You are at a good place to view the culture and society you are part of—what the Bible calls the world—more clearly. The lens of your sabbatical helps you focus and be intentional about your participation, involvement, and contribution to the world. Outside of the sabbatical, you will be subject to the loud voices of the world prescribing a way of life that many passively follow. You are called to be in the world, but not part of it. How do you live this out?

Your love of the world is primarily actualized through your daily work and routines. Undergirding your participation in the world is an order of charity within the Kingdom of God. First, you are to love those closest to you—parents and children, spouses and siblings, family and friends. Then your love must extend to the community you live in, your neighbourhood, town or city, state and country and eventually reach out to all humanity, all creatures and all of creation. That is a tall order but you are not called to do everything. You must discern your specific gifts and callings.

You have the unique calling to love those whom only you can love. No one else can be a child to your parents, a sister or brother to your siblings, a father or mother to your child, a husband or wife to your spouse—only you can! This is a totally unique calling to love those closest to you. We love them by cooking that meal, cleaning that spill, doing the laundry, making that phone call, and visiting them.

Then there is the specific calling to love those you encounter in daily life:  your colleagues, neighbours, other commuters and road users, drivers, cyclists, pedestrians, receptionists, servers, cleaners; in other words, the people whom we encounter, the Lazaruses we meet. We treat them with respect, say a prayer for them under our breath, and consider their needs and circumstances of life. One way of doing this is to put yourself in their shoes and learn to experience yourself from their eyes. Normally, when you interact with your neighbour, you react and respond to the other as yourself. In this spiritual practice of loving your neighbour as yourself, you listen, think and feel about the interaction as the other person. This is radical and may seem strange but as you put this into practice, one encounter at a time, one person at a time, you will see both yourself and your neighbour change. Talk to God about your interactions with people. Pray and be pleasantly surprised as grace enters your world, one relationship at a time.

Now we turn from expressions of love to particular persons to the extension of your love to the world. Although you perceive and relate to the world in an abstract way, your love for it can be expressed in very real and tangible ways through your daily work—your vocation. This active love is at times expressed through the training and exercise of specific gifts and through doing work in unique circumstances.

The world sees it differently. It has a hierarchical order of positions or professions and the market economy expects us o be as successful as we can be. This promotes competition resulting in winners and losers. Instead look first to your gifts and passions, then find a place that needs your contribution. This is a different approach that promotes cooperation. After all, everyone cannot be doing the same work. We are called to be stewards of our talents, not to make the most gain, but to do the greatest good. Doing what you are gifted at releases others who are differently gifted to meet the unmet needs. Once you have clarity on your gifts and contribution, you will pay less attention to opportunities that lie outside your calling. You know what you are best at, what good you can do; you also know what you are not good at. God will call others to meet that need.

The world is a fallen place. You may not have the opportunities to discover and develop your gifts, or you may not have the opportunity to exercise your particular gift. Know this however, your love for the world is always manifested through work done with unique love, care, and attention–to the glory of God. So train your natural talents, use them if you can, but always do whatever work is before you with all your heart, giving your very best. In so doing, you are doing good work, good for your soul, good for the world, and that gives glory to God.

Next-> Living Your Sabbatical: Taking Sabbatical Practices Into the World

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10-13 March 2011. I had the wonderful opportunity of birding with a local expert and a high-profile international birder. These are all firsts:

  • Black-crested tufted Titmouse (Mexican)
  • Ladder-backed Woodpecker
  • Turkey Vulture
  • Carolina Chickadee
  • Wild Turkey (they perch on treetops and sound like wild dogs)
  • Carolina Wren (boy do they sing)
  • Western Scrub Jay (they fly in the same manner as British Columbia’s Stellar’s Jay)

Also saw these:

  • American Coot
  • Northern Cardinal
  • Tree Swallow

Could not sight the elusive Canyon Wren but heard it (or a similar sounding bird).

Some notes on birding in dessert terrain. Often the birds only become active when sunlight touches the treetops. This does not apply to Wild Turkeys who dominate the treetops at dawn.

Managed to identify the Ladder-backed Woodpecker because although it was similar in size to the Downy Woodpecker, it just did not seem (or feel) right. The black stripe behind the eye curved like a C downwards to the neck instead of stretch straight to the back of the head (for the Downy). Got a good look at the head but not at the tell tale back. There was one other possible woodpecker but its habitat was pine trees. So on the basis on habitat, the woodpecker sighted was the Ladder-backed.