The following is a transcript of a Raised Catholic podcast episode. To listen to the episode, click here.
Today is episode 100. What in God’s Name?
Well friends, it’s episode 100 and I can’t believe it. If you’ve listened to the Raised Catholic podcast for a while, you’ll know that a podcast is something I never expected or wanted to try and make, yet here we are. In these 100 episodes, I’ve connected with amazing people I never would have otherwise, I’ve explored new topics, and I’ve learned so much, and, friend, I hope you have, too. I’ve tried to be a small helpful voice in the wilderness of a broken church, all in response to what I felt was a pretty compelling call from the Holy Spirit to make a non-judgmental space for cradle Catholics and others to explore, find and experience their faith and relationship with God, both inside and outside of church walls.
I know deep in my spirit that the Raised Catholic podcast is a thing that I was uniquely suited to do. And that doesn’t mean that it’s great or that I’ll do it forever, or that it is always easy, or that I know where it’s leading. God knows none of that is true. But this week, I’d love for us to reflect together on the work that is ours, uniquely to do. How do we know what that work is? How do we find it, and pursue it? How do we make sure we don’t miss the work of our hands and how do we do that work well?
Maybe it’s best to start by looking backwards.
If you look back over your life, you may be able to see where the Hand of God was guiding you, protecting you, and opening doors that you would not have thought possible at the time. This benevolent guidance is often called the Providence of God – the leading of a God who knows you intimately and who is outside of time making sure that you connect with people, ideas, places, and opportunities in a way that leads to your growth and the good of the world. It you were raised with the concept of a distant, punishing, or even cruel God, as many cradle Catholics were, it might be hard to consider the idea of a benevolent and providential God who is always working for our good, or maybe this concept feels like relief or balm to you today. Gosh, I hope that’s so. Certainly, how we understand the nature of God is a cornerstone to how we will operate in the world. If we see God as punishing, we’ll work hard in order to avoid punishment, or we’ll try to hide our failings from a God who sees everything anyway, or maybe we’ll give up, knowing anything we do will never be enough. Shame will be a motivating factor for all our action, and we’ll never ever come to close to ‘making it’. Sadly, lots of people of faith live this way every single day. But working in cooperation with God who has planned good things for us from before we were born, who made us in love and who sees everything, and who wants our good – well, this brings a freedom and new possibility to how we operate in our lives. We can look to verses like Romans 8:28, to stories such as the prodigal son, or to the very reality of an incarnated God to find lots of evidence about how God is for us, and that reality can open up a whole new way of living.
Finding the work that is ours to do in our one precious life can feel like an overwhelming idea, but I’d like to offer a few thoughts today on vocation that might feel more like relief.
- Clarity about your work will come to you as a fruit of relationship with God. That’s why encounter, prayer and contemplation are so very important, and it’s why I’ve highlighted these topics on the podcast this year. When we learn to hear God’s voice intentionally over time, we will hear more clearly just where he is leading us. Vocation is not something we find, it’s something we discover.
- The work that is yours to do is yours for a time or for a season. It is likely not forever. As you look back on your life and the seasons which have come and gone, you’ll see how true that is.
- Your work is yours even when it’s uncomfortable sometimes, and that’s okay and even good. More on that one in a bit.
- It is not yours to know where your work will lead, or what will become of it, or who will benefit from it. Honestly, that information is none of your business, and that’s a good thing. Our human work is in discernment and obedience, one step at a time. It is God’s work to make things grow, not ours.
- As you look prayerfully at your background, your experience, your interests, your gifts and passions, and even and especially your challenges, it will become clear the ways in which you are uniquely suited to fulfill a need in our broken world, but saving the world is not yours to do. You can’t do everything, but you can do your thing.
- God will call people to you to help you to do your work. I promise you, friend, that’s true. Mentors, friends, fellow travelers on the road, encouragers. When you embark on the work God has for you, you just might be amazed at the people you’ll meet, at the doors that will open, and the experiences you’ll have. From the first groups that Jesus gathered, God makes us to work in community and he provides that community for us if we will have eyes to see.
Okay, well that’s a quite a lot on vocation, I know, but here are some examples that might give some color to these principles.
Jim Orcutt at My Brother’s Keeper, an organization he started with his wife Terry which provides food, furniture, and Christmas gifts for thousands of families each year in our area, routinely says that if he knew what the Keeper would become when it started from humble beginnings over thirty years ago, he would have “run for the hills”. We don’t get to know what our work will lead to, and more importantly, we don’t have to. God brings the fruit of our work, and thankfully, God does not burden his children with the future.
Here’s another example. There was a period of time when I was called to be a very public voice in advocating for more funds for our beleaguered school district. I wrote letters to the editor, spoke up in town meetings, disseminated information to my community in a daily email, held signs and rallied fellow parents. In that time, I probably worked 15-20 hours a week for that cause during the span of about ten years. As a group, we made a difference in getting that needed funding, we showed our kids how to speak out for what’s important, and we connected with each other. All very good fruit, but that season came to an end over ten years ago. It was my work for a time and then it wasn’t.
As I look back, I see clearly how God worked to bring even more good from that season. In a time of severe budget cuts and no art, music, or gym in our district, I started teaching preschool music for free for kindergarteners and first graders once a month in our local library in a reluctant ‘yes’ to a clear call from the Holy Spirit. I had no idea what I was doing, but God used my background – my degree is in elementary education, and he used my interests – I’ve always sung in choirs and prioritized music while raising my young kids, to lead me to create what is now my curriculum and business, Exploring Music, which I teach in area preschools, enrichment centers, libraries and more and I’ve done that work now for over twenty years. I could not have known what the future would bring from that endeavor, but I stepped out in obedience, pretty shakily at first, I might add, one step at a time. God brought such good fruit from it, and he still does today. I’ve taught thousands of kids and have connected with families and teachers in a way I never could have without my music teaching. I feel the hand of God in this for sure.
As cradle Catholics who may have been taught that our value is rooted in service, it’s a good reminder to know that not all work is ours to do. We’re not God. I teach preschoolers and I love them. I could teach 30 of those little muffins at a time no problem, and I do a really good job, too, if I do say so myself, but I wouldn’t want to spend ten minutes teaching in a middle school. It’s not my strength and that’s a good thing for me to know, don’t you think? And it’s good for the middle-schoolers too, that there are teachers for whom that is their strength and gift. Knowing ourselves and being honest and clear about our strengths and weaknesses is a critical part of finding our work. God made us and he knows us. He has designed the work of our hands for us.
At the same time, it’s important to know that our work is ours to do even when it’s uncomfortable sometimes. If we hear a calling from God, the call will likely feel organic and energizing, flowing from our particular background, interest, and talents. It will feel like a fit and that it makes sense, but that doesn’t mean it will always be easy. God knows that’s the case with this little podcast I started 100 episodes ago, but God will use the discomfort to grow and stretch us. A very important part of the work that is being done in our vocation is the work that God does within us. Let’s not let fear limit us when there’s a hurting world out there that needs what is uniquely ours to give.
My mother found the work of her hands through the lens of experience. A kid who grew up in the projects in Boston, she always had a heart for those in need. Later, when she started her parish giving tree program and food pantry where she distributed dignity as well as food – calling her patrons ‘clients’ and the place itself ‘St. Anthony’s Free Market’ instead of ‘food pantry’, she said that every job she’d ever had had contributed skills that enabled her to accomplish these huge tasks. As we look back on our lives, we can see how experience leads us to the work that God has uniquely for us to do.
As I think about the work I’ve undertaken with shaky first steps, I clearly see the people that God called to help me and to walk with me on those roads. As I endeavored to secure more funding for our schools, it was Keith and Shawn, Dori, Linda and Michael who were my teachers and companions on the way. As I started my preschool music teaching, it was Julie and Jonathan who made a way for me by opening their brand-new dance studio to my fledgling music program and who became dear friends. As I started making this podcast, it was Karen, Mike, Mark, Alissa, and Dominic who came alongside and cheered me on, sharing their platforms and giving needed encouragement, connecting me with even more wonderful people along the way. It was my college friend Peter, who reached out from across the country to contribute the beautiful harp music you’re listening to right now and in each and every episode. Well, I look back over these episodes and over my life, really, and I see how God makes a way. He connects us as a Body to move us forward. That’s who God is and that’s how he works, in and through us for our good and for the good of the world. It’s in our obedience that we take small, courageous, uncertain steps, and I believe that one day we’ll see the gorgeous tapestry we’re all making together with these intersections and shared work and encouragements. Like one small candle lending light to another to light up the whole world.
So, as you listen today, friend, I’m wondering, what is your work? What have you made or endeavored to make or what will you make in the future? Where are your history, experience, gifts, challenges, talents, and passions leading you to make your mark on the world? How is God whispering in your ear today? I’d encourage you to take one small step in that direction, and when you do, I hope you’ll tell me all about it. Thank you for being a part of my work here at the Raised Catholic podcast over these one hundred episodes, friend, it really matters so much to me. Thank you. I know it’s no accident that we’ve connected here together, and I don’t take it for granted. One day, we’ll see the fruit of the work of our hands and we’ll stand in awe at the goodness of God, how he works through the most unlikely people to make something beautiful that we never expected. And friend, I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.
Well thanks so much for listening. If you need me, you can find me on Instagram @kerrycampbellwrites or on my blog at mylittleepiphanies.com. Thanks so much for rating, reviewing, subscribing and most importantly, sharing this podcast with a friend. That really makes a difference in growing our community, so thanks. If you’d like to support this podcast financially, there’s a way for you to do that in the show notes, along with some resources related to today’s episode, so do check all of that out, but before we go, let’s pray together.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, amen.
God we need only look at the lives of the saints and of your mother Mary to see how you live within us and lead us to the work of our hands, even when that work is surprising and unexpected. Help us to hold your hand and to take the adventure of vocation with you and may we one day see the beautiful tapestry that you’re building with all of our lives.
God, in a particular way, I want to thank you for each one listening today and for their dear ones. Please bless them. Let your will be done in this work and in all of our work, and in the name of Jesus we pray, amen.
Thanks so much for listening to this one hundredth episode, friend. Gosh, what a thing to say. God bless you, friend. Thanks for listening. I’ll see you next time.
This week we celebrate our 100th episode with a look at vocation: how do we discover the work of our hands in our one precious life, and how do we do it well?
If you’d like to connect with me, find me on Instagram or on my blog. If you’d like to help support this podcast financially, there’s now a way to do just that, and thank you – visit me on my page at buymeacoffee.com! Thanks as always for sharing, subscribing, rating, and reviewing, as this helps our community to grow!
Here are some resources I hope will help you to engage with this week’s topic in a deeper way for yourself:
1. My Brother’s Keeper, the charity I mention in today’s episode.
2. St. Anthony’s Free Market, the parish food pantry my Mom started and which continues today, ten years after her passing.
3. Video: What’s My Vocation?, from Fr. Mike Schmitz
4. Book: Let Your Life Speak – Listening for the Voice of Vocation, by Parker Palmer
5. Meditation: Vocation, by Frederick Buchner
6. Film: The God Who Sees You with Rachel Held Evans – series by The Work of The People
7. Song: If You Want Me To, by Ginny Owens
8. Song: Establish the Work of Our Hands, by Porter’s Gate, Aaron Keys, Urban Doxology
9. Journal Questions (be still with God and ask):
What suffering or problem that exists in the world does my particular past experience lead me to see?
What are my gifts? Strengths? Challenges? Where are these pointing me?
What is one small step I could take this week in the direction of my work?
Am I ready to ask God to help me walk this out, one step at a time?
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