That or those, are real questions that I often I wrestle with, given that scripture indicates that "God is no respector of persons." Certainly from what I observe, not everyone does live as blessed as my family! Are blessings based on calling, status being of no significance to God, or is God just unfair, even uninvolved, with life's blessings attained only by way of hard work?
Perhaps it is some combination of all that, at least it can feel that way as we mature in our walk. That by the way is called discipleship, a marketplace dynamic, though unfortunately too often identified only as a church related concept. Allow me to explain by way of my own life experience.
Though I was never taught this on the front end of my life, in retrospect there now seems some Kingdom economy that we often miss as believers, given our capitalistic perspective. We have become too comfortable as Christians with some being underresourced, while others live with bounty.
If the Kingdom of God is truly among us, it would reason that a Christ-like economic ecosystem would exist, likely driven by calling, and sufficient to shape our lives as representatives of the Christ. An economy controlled by providence, moreso than initiative, fellowship with God more important than the "nose to the grindstone" work ethic which I was taught!
As I suppose upon this ecosystem, I imagine one where everyone always has enough to pursue their life calling, a womb-work designed such that if each truly lives into their own calling, not even a sparrow falls to the ground unnoticed by the heart of God.
This economy is based upon grace and generosity, and is sufficient for caring for those with whom we have chosen to do life, whether we live in a mansion or under a bridge with the homeless?
By the way, I once met an "under the bridge" called person, in that role by reason of choice, seen as his life's calling. It was years back in Atlanta, and I had been invited to attend a breakfast meeting to learn from other clergy, just after the Olympics.
At the meeting and around the breakfast buffet provided, I noticed this fellow dressed in soiled bike shorts, all others mostly dressed in clergy garb. They had been invited from all stripes of denominations. When I asked where he pastored, he responded, "the church under the bridge and I had third shift!" I wanted to wash his feet! He made my prosperous life feel quite unfair and his heart, enviable!
Is calling always easy to walk in? I'm sure in his case, it did not always feel that way! Calling is never always easy, even when one's calling seems unfairly blessed, as does ours. There are days when observation of others, who live quite "normal" lives brings a different sort of envy! Just ask the lady who lives with me!
As an aside, you need to know that God is very proficient in nurturing a generosity among those most blessed, if in fact their life is about the Kingdom. Otherwise, their philanthropy is mere tax evasion! True generosity, even occasional sacrifice is a part of everyone's journey as Christ-followers!
Our life, since early in our marriage has been unexplainably blessed. I recall the first feelings of responsiblity for my bride upon return from our honeymoon, though I had little other than a decent car when we first married. In fact after the honeymoon, I simply moved from my apartment into her's!
I recall praying that God would help us find a home, as I knew from watching my dad's walk out of poverty, that home ownership was a piece of that. Living on two nine-month, beginner teacher salaries back then, provided us with little margin if we were to manage our debts. That's how both of us were raised, though before coming to Christ, I must admit to some need for discipline!
Even with my weekend and "summer vacation" work on the truck docks, there were times when our budget was tight. Fortunately, I had continued my part-time work as a means of paying off my school loan, just so I could teach, a place that felt like calling, which I had come to enjoy!
I'll never forget asking my assistant principal, a homeowner, for advice about securing an affordable home for us. I was surprised to have him tell me that he had recently recieved his Realtor license and in fact, had his first listing. I mention this because within days of our marriage, one consumated upon a sense of being called together by Christ, we began to realize that something had begun happening in the way of unexplainable favor. I hope you will see that as you continue to read
Though my friend could not leave the school as early as we, he arranged a showing for us to see 107 Hillside Drive, that very afternoon, a property just inside the city of Lexington. When we crossed the small crest of the hill for which the street was named, our eyes caught the "For Sale" sign on the corner of Hillside and Woodcrest. Before we were out of the car, we had fallen in love again, this time with a small, brick, ranch style house. I recall, both of us looking into each other's eyes, knowing God was at work and that this was our "new" home!
We had also been given a gracious, but relatively small wedding gift from our parents, to us it seemed big money, and would become our first joint investment. The next day we would talk with our banker.
After he looked at the listing documents provided, he informed us that the down-payment we had to offer would be insufficient for our small loan.
We glanced at each other in disbelief!
He then said, "but only by one dollar" as he then reached into his wallet, another wedding gift for these two young teachers! We quickly signed the papers for the loan!
By the way, that home was only a few blocks from where we would within seven years be called to help build the first church in which we would serve, there for almost thirteen years. Much later, as you will also soon realize, being within the city limits of Lexington would be a requirement for my next professional position!
God was going before us!
After 17 years, we sold that home and tripled our investment. We would then built a custom home, in which we planned to retire. You see, in the window of time from 1981 to '85, we would have our first child, start a sideline paint business, learn to live debt free and secure a masters degree! Kingdom principles were at work, though we had no clue.
The very Saturday that I returned home from my two year weekend stints toward a graduate degree, having just completed my comprehensive exams, my wife had lovingly laid out our small-town newspaper, something I liked to read in order to relax before preparation for Sunday's church assignments. Immediately,, in the lower left corner was an article about a resignation in the school district which we had providentially moved into as mentioned earlier. I heard the Lord say, "That's your job!" I applied, then "prayerfully" made up answers in a very intense interview the next week, sufficient for securing my first administrative position.
By 1989, I had been encouraged to pursue further leadership development, which required another degree. I soon obtained my superintendent's certification, with my eyes upon retirement at age 50, which would open a window of time to further pursue my already rather intense church engagement. As I write, it makes me tired to think that of all that was going on. On top of that, I would take on the management of my first construction project.
You see, one of our high school coaches had begun talking to me about his neighborhood, and had introduced us to a couple who needed to sell a nice secluded lot in a quiet suburban development. Another good deal!
By way of my new employment and city-wide role in the local school system, I had gotten to know our municipal leadership and local planning board staff. I quickly pulled the permits, designating myself as contractor, then bid out and subcontracted all the trades. Within one year, we had built a custom home designed by my wife.
We put our Hillside home on the market, and it sold immediately, and as I said before, given our sweat equity over the years, we realized a sizable profit. Little did we know, the why of all this!
Almost immediately, the Spirit began to prompt us toward participating in a growing church back in my hometown, though some thirty minutes of drive time from our new home.
Within one year of building our home, the church pastor began conversations with my wife and me, about coming on board given my skill set and their needs. So instead of retiring from the school system, I resigned at twenty years and took a pay cut!
After three years, we would sell our dream home, having made a family based decision given my three years of commuting. I was leaving early each morning and arriving late evening, given that a part of my role at the church was headmaster of a growing Dayschool, to which I had also relocated my daughter. She was by then in fifth grade.
We soon sold everything except enough furniture for our 50% downsizing. We soon began to understand the "why" behind our years of felt need to discipline ourselves toward debt free living, even before selling our small Hillside home.
With a portion of the funds from our new build, having realized a profit from our labor, we paid cash for our next home, a kind of row house with contractor grade vinyl, versus the brick we had always been used to. We would pour ourselves into landscaping the flat open lot, soon making it feel like a home.
I was no longer a bi-vocational assistant pastor and public school administrator with a nice fixed income and retirement funds awaiting, though God had provided ample financial confirmation in the quick sale of our home, along with a good deal on our smaller home.
After another three years, my church income would be back to what we had left, as well as my new consulting business called, Master Counsel. LaDonna also having launched her own DBA, Concepts by LaDonna. We decided to build again.
As we began our search for a building lot, I found myself drawn to a small village just outside of my hometown, which I recalled driving through as a child. We would often as a family, drive to a large park called, Tanglewood, where we could fish for free!
I recall driving by a very upscale development, at least at that time relative to the one in which we were living. As I glanced down to the end of a small a cul-de-sac, I saw a wooded lot that actually resembled what we had left earlier. Out of our range it seemed so, I intended to keep driving. That's when as I recall the Spirit speaking to me, "That's where I need you to live."
Along the entry were ornate brick walls, with brick sidewalks and ornamental lampposts. I recoiled! "Lord I don't need that level of home!" The reply was immediate, "Yes, but the people in who's lives I need you to be involved in, need you to live there!"
I called the Realtor and soon put the lot under contract, building this time with the help of an architect and a contractor. That would be the home in which we have now lived for 27 years. LaDonna could once more live into her calling of hospitality!
I must share one more thing. When I first found the lot, it was Valentine's Day week, so upon verbal acceptance of my offer, I nailed up cupids and hearts all through the wooded lot, again, much like the lot my wife had surrendered for the sake of our calling!
I then surprised LaDonna by asking that she drive out once more to make a final decision on the lot. When she arrived, the cupid and hearts thing was so unlike what her laser-focused, less than romantic husband had become, that she called the TV station. They ran the story on the evening news on Valentine's Day!
Ten years later, I would become mayor of that Village! Apparently, that's what God meant by, "Yes, but the people in who's lives I need you to be involved, need you to live there." In fact, this afternoon I will be leading a citizen meeting in our backyard cabin, brainstorming means for deeper engagement of our community in the local foundation which I had earlier chaired.
I share all this not to boast, but rather to affirm the providence and provision of our Kingdom calling.
Thar seems appropriate segway from our personal blessings, so as to get back around to the reality that God truly is indeed no respector of persons. It should now be apparent, that one's life provision is commensurate with a willingness to walk into their life's calling, a grace that comes by way of intimacy with God. To me this what was meant by "having life and that life more abundantly". That's not some prosperity gospel, as you might now better understand my reason for the earlier mention of my under the bridge pastor friend!
All along our journey, we were learning to rely upon Kingdom economics, a dynamic quite different from American capitalism, where profit motive is the driver! Some call in following your heart!
Maybe we can pick up on that tomorrow? I promise to be more brief!