What readers are saying about Jim's book...

"With profound insight, compassion, and solid biblical support, Jim resurrects one of the most forgotten and overlooked truths in our day."

~Dwight Edwards, author and advisor to Larry Crabb

"Still the best book on the theme out there."

~Alice F.; Arizona

*Read more reviews on Amazon...

Prone To Wander Myth

Buy Jim's book.

 What if your heart is no longer 'prone to wander?'  What if God is more interested in releasing a noble goodness He's already placed within you, rather than pressuring you to be more 'holy?'  Discover the book by Jim Robbins.

good and noble heart resources





Get Jim's Newsletter

Follow this blog.
Search this blog


Entries in calling (35)


A new word for pursuing the clarity of your calling...

I'm going to invent a new word:  lucidentity
It's a contraction of "lucid" and "identity." 

I was driving my kids to the pool today when I saw the license plate of the car in front of me:  "LUCID."  Certain words "pop" for me, and "lucid" is one of them: 


"Clear understanding and perception."

"Evident, clear, understandable."

"Radiant, luminous."

The title of the new book about calling and identity I'm working on will likely be called, "Shimmer."  This idea of "lucidentity" ... of possessing a clear, top-of-mind, and radiant view of ourselves is second to none for me.  With luminous clarity, I want each of my friends to be able to say, "I know with greater clarity the indispensable role I play in God's Story than I did last year."

Dan Allender, in his book, "To Be Told," offers this intriguing question: 

What about God am I most uniquely suited to reveal to others?

Lucidentity:  In other words, you are awake to the "why."  You may not yet know the "how" but that's God's bailiwick.  Trust him for the "how."  Ask him to give you greater lucidentity as you discover what God is trying to reveal to others through the unique splendor of your life.


Similar postings:

Podcast:  Calling Series:  THE GLORY OF YOUR LIFE, with special guest, Gary Barkalow - author of It's Your Call.


Myths about your calling


Calling happens more quickly for others. 
No.  What we see as 'success' in another is merely the long and arduous accumulation of tears, testing and time.  We're merely seeing them on this particular summit.  Calling shouldn't be thought of in terms of months or years; but often, decades.

The journey of calling shouldn't be this hard. 
No.  As John Churton Collins says, a person often fails "because he thinks what is difficult is easy."

Your calling is only valuable when you're getting paid or recognized for it. 
No.  You know your true art and calling when you're willing to do it whether or not anyone sees it or pays for it. You do it because your heart won't let you do anything less. I've tried several times to quit: I couldn't. My heart wouldn't let it go.

Impact is measured by newsletter subscribers and social media "reach." 
No.  None of these existed when Jesus healed dying bodies or launched human history's defining revolution.  Paul and Barnabas received their direction from the Holy Spirit to "go there" or "avoid that town"  increasing the Gospel's "reach" and rootedness.  Technology can be a tremendous vehicle for delivering our message, but there is no substitute for the direct voice of the Holy Spirit and his outpowering of power.

Taking up your cross is the opposite of following your heart's desire.
No.  As a Christian, your heart is now alive with the very goodness of Jesus.  The desires of that heart are noble and ought to be pursued.  [Your 'flesh' may have other, ignoble desires, but we're talking about your new heart's desires here.] Taking up our cross and following our heart's desire are the same thing.  Following your heart's desire and calling may be the hardest thing you could ever pursue.  But that's what noble people do.

 You and your calling are already fully approved:  I can hear the Stadium of Witnesses roar with the Lion. 


Related posts:

Futility is a man's deepest fear

What does calling have to do with your heart?

Video:  'The Long Desire'

Podcast:  'Calling As a Journey:'  with guest Gary Barkalow, author of "It's Your Call"





Futility is a man's deepest fear.

Image-courtesy Kansas' "Leftoverture" album coverFutility plagues a man’s life more than anything else:

“My life is of little consequence.  My best efforts are in vain.  I will be an obscure footnote in History's appendix.  I long for significance, but suspect my efforts are a pebble's drop into a dark, hollow well.   My life will be a long testimony to failure.”

It is the lament of the writer of Ecclesiastes:

"Meaningless!  Meaningless!" says the Teacher...There is no remembrance of men of old, and even those who are yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow."  - Eccl. 1:1, 11

We’ve come to expect that breakthrough comes soon and comes at a younger age.  We’ve looked to the exceptions to give us our timeline:  Citizen Kane, Orson Well’s masterpiece was written at age twenty-five.  Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 was composed when he was twenty-one.  Many of Picasso’s most celebrated paintings were done in his twenties.  [What the Dog Saw, Malcom Gladwell]

However, as David Galenson, who has studied our assumptions about creativity points out, there are many other cases in which genius peaked much later:  Robert Frost wrote 42 percent of his anthologized poems after turning fifty.  Alfred Hitchcock directed his films, “Rear Window,” “Psycho” and “Virtigo” between the ages of fifty-four and sixty-one.  Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn was published when he was forty-nine, and Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe at fifty-eight.  The master painter, Cezanne’s, finest work was done in his senior years.  [What the Dog Saw, Malcom Gladwell]

Malcom Gladwell calls those who peak later in life, “late bloomers.” [What the Dog Saw] For me, it offers an antidote to a man’s fear that his life won't amount to much:  breakthrough is a slow bang.  It is a long fuse that culminates in vivid splendor only after it has burned that slow, steady, coil upon tedious coil of fuse. 

But note:  the fuse still gives off spark and light at each moment leading up to the bang.


Packhorse Christians

Lithograph image, courtesy Degrazia.orgWhen I was serving in the organized Church - first as a pastor, then as a contemporary worship director, it didn't take long for me to notice that utility replaced desire as an indicator of calling.  In other words, "You are here to do whatever needs to be done."  If there's a need, you will fill it.  If the leadership has told you to do it, you will, or risk being downsized.

Usefulness, replaced desire.  It didn't matter that you were endowed with unique desires that indicated a unique calling.  What mattered was that you filled a need - any need - that came across your path. 

I call this the "packhorse" model of ministry: 

"Just carry whatever load you are asked to, whether or not it has anything to do with your particular gifts, dreams, or desires."  All that matters is that the ministry machinery is kept going.

In the packhorse model, people get used.  You're a burro, a donkey for the organization.  It depreciates people who could be making a far greater impact doing what they were designed to do, and turns them into beasts of burden.  A tragic misuse and misplacement of divine giftings and desires.

The horse wants to run, but the organization wants to keep it tethered:  Mustangs don't belong in the corral where the spirit is broken and the steed is altered to become a drafthorse. 

We need permission.  This doesn't mean that we act alone, ignorant of the common good - It means we aren't simply a part of the machinery.  Your calling isn't about becoming more and more domesticated so that you can please the higher-ups. 

You will find your calling through your heart's deepest desires:  Pay attention to them, for in them God has tied ribbons to trees to mark the way back to the wild purpose of your life.


What is your war-craft?

I wear a ring on which is carved the Roman numerals CXLIV.  It stands for 144 ... Psalm 144.

Psalm 144, verse 1:
Praise be to the Lord my Rock,
who trains my hands for war,
my fingers for battle.

What I do - my mission, my artistry, my craft is my war-craft.  Through the music or videos I create, the intended effect is to disarm darkness through beauty and art; joining God in restoring the life that has been lost.  Art, done in partnership with God, is an act of redemption.

Through the pen and written word, my intent is to expose beliefs that keep people in the dark, bound like Lazarus in his grave clothes. 

What you do, both on and off the 'job' is your war-craft:  You may be a receptionist, an engineer, a web-developer, a poet, or a parent.  Your craft is dangerous...for good.

Your art is an act of war.  When God created you, he was declaring war because you are his redemptive act...his redemptive art.

Your craft and calling matter because they are opposed. 

So the question is,

"In what way is your calling, "artistry" or craft waging war against the dark? Who is it rescuing?"




Jobs are 'access points' not callings

Jobs and positions are only access points, not callings, to the people or places that God knows need our glory. ~ Gary Barkalow, It's Your Call - What Are You Doing Here?


Jobs [access points] are but one of many ways we bring our calling [our glory, the effect of our life on others] to the world.

Here's how I think of it:  Limiting the effect of your life [your calling] to any one job is like trying to funnel Lake Superior into an eye dropper. 

Gary's teaching on calling is far more helpful than personality tests and spiritual gifts inventories alone could ever be.  His book answers the questions the tests cannot, and gives you the missing clues to living from your hearts deepest desires.


Podcast - CALLING AS A JOURNEY - author Gary Barkalow joins Jim

PODCAST:  'CALLING AS A JOURNEY' - part 7 of 7 in the Calling Series with Gary Barkalow, author of It's Your Call - What Are You Doing Here?.  Jim and Gary talk about the nature of calling as a journey that unfolds with increasing clarity.

This podcast will be really helpful for those who look at someone else's life and assume, "I should be where they are. What's wrong with me? Is God holding out on me?" 

Listen to the entire seven-part series on Calling:  'THE GLORY OF YOUR LIFE.'


You are not a commodity - How we've reduced our calling to a job

As Gary Barkalow suggests in his new book, It's Your Call - What Are You Doing Here?,  your calling is not to a specific job, position, or ministry role.  It is broader and deeper than that. 

Though your job or role can certainly reflect your calling, it would be better to think of your calling as the weightiness of your life - the effect you have on those around you - the particular way in which you carry God's splendor into the world.  Your calling spills over into every role and relationship you have in your life, not simply what you call 'work' for 40 or 50 hours a week.

Pastors -- you are not called to be a 'pastor;'  although you might be called to shepherd people in their spiritual journey.  You can bring that shepherding and caring heart into each sphere of influence you hold.  It doesn't have to come with the role or title of 'Pastor.'

Teachers -- you are not called to the role or title or 'Teacher;'  although you might be great at bringing clarity and illumination to those around you.

Plumbers and electricians -- you are not called to be a 'Plumber' or 'Electrician.'  However, you may bring an ability to figure out how things work and how they can be repaired into every relationship and situation.  [You may also earn a living by doing what a plumber or electrician does, but your calling to bring your unique insight can't be contained in the hours you call 'work.']

Your calling cannot be fully contained and fulfilled by a job or position.  How could the weight of your life be defined by a list of functions or tasks?  Second, if finding your calling is tied to finding the right job or position, your calling would be limited to the extent of that work.  In a typical job, your life's purpose would be limited to forty hours a week. 

 - Gary Barkalow, It's Your Call

What do you do with your calling the other hours of the week?  Do you leave it at the office?  Of course not.  If you limit your calling to what you do for a paycheck, then you've made yourself a day-laborer, as Seth Godin cautions.  You've turned your value into a commodity -- reducing your worth to only those activities you get paid for:  equal pay for equal service.  Is that really the extent of your value?  Can you measure it by how much you're getting paid, or the hours you're putting in?  No!

Your calling is the brilliant effect of your life on others.  The unique splendor and perception you offer.  The way you see the world.  God is trying to tell the world something ... through you.  In you; as you.


Feel free to Post a Comment below.

Related podcastsORIENTATION - Calling Series, part one.  Special guest Gary Barkalow, author It's Your Call - What Are You Doing Here? joins me for this series.


New podcast - DEVELOPING THE HEART NEEDED FOR OUR CALLING - special guest Gary Barkalow joins Jim

What qualities of heart are needed as we mature in our calling?  These are the qualities that will keep us from inadvertently sabotaging what we most truly want. 

Special guest, Gary Barkalow [author of the upcoming book on calling, It's Your Call - What Are You Doing Here?]  joins Jim for part six of their seven-part series.

*  You can listen to the other podcasts in the "Calling Series" here.

*  Download in iTunes.


In defense of the Renaissance Man

Is it possible for one to be both scholar and artist?  Simultaneously "right-brained, and 'left-brained" and capable at both?

Part of the problem with our contemporary culture of "experts" is that it doesn't allow for the real possibility that a man or woman can effectively operate out of both sides of their brain, or demonstrate expertise in both the arts and the intellect.   Going to our General Practitioner won't do -- we are referred to a 'specialist.'  There's simply too much to know for any one person to know it all.

As I've wrestled with my own calling, the idea that a person who is a jack-of-all-trades can only be 'master of none' has forced me into an artificial narrowness:  "If I am a writer, then people won't possibly believe that I am also an artist and musician."  (Or at least, not very good at either; because how could any one person possibly be skilled at both.)

What would Leonardo DaVinci have thought of this constricted vision of human calling?  His own brilliance covered such sweeping pursuits as painting, architecture, the anatomy of the human body, and even the design of tanks and advanced weaponary.  The man who painted the "Last Supper" also excelled in geometry and architecture. 

Yet, perhaps our culture of experts has sabotaged the Renaissance Man with narrow and constricting assumptions.

One the one hand, it is good for a person to be as clear and specific about their calling as they can be.  On the other, there may be a common thread running underneath the various pursuits of the Renaissance Man or Woman.  In my case, it was the thread of design:  whether I am composing a music score for a video, or writing another chapter of my next book, I deeply enjoy creating and revealing design  -- whether it's the design of a musical composition, or the design of the human heart and its longings.  The intellect and the artistry are not mutually-exclusive, but mutually-affirming.

So take heart, those of you who, like DaVinci have found yourself competent in both the intellect and scholarly as well as the poetic and sublime.  There is precident for what you can offer the world.


THE ASSAULT AGAINST YOUR CALLING - new podcast in the 'calling' series

Special guest Gary Barkalow, author of the upcoming book, It's Your CallWhat are you doing here?, joins Jim again for part four of their series on living from our calling. 

What has been coming against your heart to shut it down?  What is at stake as we pursue the deep desires of our hearts and the calling that is written there?

This was a powerful conversation with Gary Barkalow, who brings a deep clarity to the struggles of calling.


What does 'calling' have to do with your heart?

You may be wondering why a guy like me, who typically speaks about the heart, is talking about 'calling' lately. 

The first reason is that the topic of calling is part of a book I'm working on.  Second, because you can't find your calling without believing Christ has given you a good and noble heart.  Calling flows from heart.

Within your new heart lie the clues to your place in the Story - your 'calling.'  These clues come in the form of your deep desires, as well as the story your heart has been living in.   Beneath the defining events of your life, the pattern of wounds, the activities that made you come alive, something was happening in your heart - shaping it, calling it up and out.  Your heart has a unique history and a story to tell.

If you believe your heart is deceitful and selfish, it will be hard to see your deep desires and to believe that there are now good and noble desires within your new and noble heart.

That's why I write about calling.  Calling flows from heart.



Is it o.k. to get paid for your calling?

Yes, it is o.k.

There are those, who with good intentions, are saying 'no,' though.  Their contention is that "God's stuff" should be free.  However, as noble as that sounds, it stems from an unhelpful view of calling.

Their argument Get a 'real job' so that you can support your true calling and offer your message for free. But here's the problem with that: 

Your calling is to bring the effect of your life into every area of your life -- including your 'job.'  Ideally, your job reflects your calling and giftings and is suited to them.  Isn't your job a ministry?  For those that want to say "Get a real job that supports your ministry so that your ministry offering is free,"  I say, "But isn't your 'real job' a ministry?  Don't you bring the effect of your life, your gifts and unique heart to that job setting?  Why is that any less a ministry?

Secondly, their argument seems to apply primarily to those having a message-based ministry, rather than a product or service that isn't primarily message-based.  This might include Christian authors and speakers, or those creating explicitly 'Christian' music.  Those who are bringing a kingdom message seem to fall into a separate category than anyone else in the Body of Christ -- pedestalizing that group of communicators -- and diminishing the role of everyone else in the Body.  [I'm not even specifically thinking of paid 'pastors' and the like, necessarily; but more generally of anyone whose mission is primarily message-driven.]

Would they expect a physician, who happens to be a Christian, to offer his services free?  Not likely?  But isn't he also doing God's work and offering the restoring work of Jesus?  How about the hairdresser who loves God and brings him into conversations with her clients?  Should she offer her services free? I don't think we would expect that of her.  But for some reason, those whose primary mission centers around a message are expected to offer it free -- austensibly because it's "God's stuff."  (Yet isn't the doctor and the hairdresser offering 'God's stuff' as well to their clients?)  Don't we all have a right to support our families at a reasonable level? [-Of course, I'm speaking of reasonable pay and in good-conscience.]

If we use the inequitable scale of value that those who want God's stuff to be free do, then no one  in the Body should be paid for any of their work, including the 'real jobs' they have, since we'd hope that every believer treats his/her job as a ministry and an extension of their calling. 

I understand the sentiment of those wanting the message to be free -- I just don't think that value -scale is being applied equally across the Body, and I think it creates a false division in the Body as to which callings are more important than others.

No calling is more godly or sacred than the next, because each one's gifts and calling flow from him who levelled the playing field.  Let's stop pedestalizing (and penalizing) those primarily offering a message, and lift up each one's offering to others -- whether that person brings their gifts as an artist, author, electrician, doctor or hairdresser.

Your thoughts?


Badly underestimating a life

On NPR today, a man was being interviewed who had made it his year-long quest to bake the perfect loaf of bread. 

My first thought was, "This guy has badly underestimated the cosmic drama unfolding around him."  My second thought was, "This guy has a really lackluster sense of his own personal calling."

Don't misunderstand me:  I think freshly-baked bread is one of life's true pleasures.  In fact, today I enjoyed a sandwich made with a nutty garlic and potato artisan bread:  Nourishing and hand-crafted.  But taking a year of my life to learn how to bake the perfect loaf isn't something that strikes me as urgent or enduring.  Rather, it strikes me as a bit naive. 

He has miscalculated two things:  the unfolding Story into which he has been invited; and his place in that Story.  It's much like the journalist in the movie, Saving Private Ryan, who had never seen battle before.  He's been asked to join a rescue operation.  He wants to bring his clunky and cumbersome typewriter; but the Captain, played by Tom Hanks says, "Here, take this instead" and hands him a pencil. The journalist didn't know what to take because he sorely underestimated the unfolding circumstances:  He wasn't taking another desk job  -  he was about to engage in field ops, where he would get shot at.

Surely the man who took a year of his life to pursue the perfect loaf has much more to offer the world -- a more needed and substantial treasure to give.   If our naivete persists, we might as well bring cookies and punch to flood victims; and board games to the clinically-depressed.  Surely much more is needed than that.


Those who are hungry for what you bring

What kind of people most need what you offer?

Jesus’ invitation was extended to those with an appetite for what he had:  hungry and thirsty people.  An individual is not going to come to his table if they are neither hunger nor thirsty.  It’s not their desire to do so ... and desire is the difference.  If they don’t want it, they won’t come.

Therefore, when you consider your own calling, the affect of your life, your unique offering to others, it’s appropriate to ask:  “What type of person will be most receptive to what I offer?  Who will be hungry for what I bring?” 

This is a general guideline for determining the direction in which our calling can go.  However, as with the kind of environment we most want to flourish in, there are occasions where God will place us in adverse environments, surrounded by people who don’t want what we offer.  We ultimately offer our hearts in service to God, and therefore may be asked to bring our selves to those grating and ungracious people.  For a time. 

Take heart – our environment need not define us:  a caged lion is still a lion.  He may wish to return to the open savanna, but only his surroundings have changed; not his noble strength, not his regal splendor. If our appointment to a job (mission) is only for a time, we can take comfort from the fact that the people there can never diminish our splendor or remove our unique glory – for they did not give it.

So what kind of person is most likely to need and want what you bring to the Story?


podcast - "YOUR UNIQUE GLORY" - guest Gary Barkalow talks with Jim

"Your unique glory:"  What is the particular aspect of God's splendor and brilliance that you bring to the world?  What is the affect of your life on others?

Gary Barkalow joins Jim for part 3 of a seven-part series on "Calling."  Gary's teaching on calling addresses critical issues that spiritual gifts inventories and personality tests don't cover.  You will find his message healing, insightful, and hopeful. 


When your job stinks...

What do you do when your job doesn't reflect what you really love?

It’s helpful to think of a particular job (the thing that brings home the bacon) as a divine appointment or commission.  It may be for a few months or longer; but for that time and place, and to those people, God is asking us to bring our unique presence.  They need you there -- even if they don't know it.

The problem is, most of us don’t know whether or not that particular job is God's divine assignment for us:   It might be.  It might not be.  What if God's not asking you to stay there?  It’s always helpful to ask God the question: "Is this where you want me for this time?"  

When the job gets particularly tough or the people you interact with become particularly frustrating, it will strengthen you to know that God has sent you there [if he, in fact, has], for at least a time.  It’s a lot harder to put up with those things if you don’t know you’re supposed to be there.

He's also training you for what is to come.  Not punishing you ... training you.  Your going to need what you'll gain in this time of development and cultivation.  You don't want to rush the field without the proper training:  Many have and many have lost heart because of it.

Ask God whether or not he's assigned you there... then trust.



Why you've been selected for Special Forces

Army Special Operation Forces

"They free the oppressed...They win hearts and minds...They assure support." 

Would you rather have a police squad or a special ops unit protect you? 

It depends upon the context, doesn't it?  Each is appropriate for different situations:  You don't need Delta Force to protect your town, your local parks, or inner cities, generally.  You do need Delta Force to locate and take-down Al-Quaeda and insurgency groups who are able to exact large-scale destruction over mass populations, or who can infiltrate high-level targets within our borders.

The kind of tactical force you need depends upon the story going on.  If you believe we're living in Lake Wobegon, you need not be concerned with the hazards of living in that story -- save for the gossip flowing from the pulpit of Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility. 

However, if you believe the unfolding Story that God has invited us into more accurately represents Tolkein's Lord of the Rings, or Marc Bowden's Black Hawk Down, then you'll need a different missional vehicle -- you'll need Special Forces watching your back.  God has an enemy, and therefore you do. God's enemy is never people:  his Enemy is the one who fell from heaven, and the angels that fell with him. 

Here's the unnerving news:  you've been assigned to Special Forces.  God could use the angelic forces, and he does; but he quite specifically chooses you.  Your unique capacities and the effect of your presence there is directly related to the needs of the unit, and to the outcome of the Story.

Furthermore, each gender has been selected, and every generation as well.

What do you bring?


Podcast - CALLING SERIES - part one - "Orientation" - special guest Gary Barkalow

ORIENTATION - Calling Series - part one - special guest Gary Barkalow joins Jim.

Many Christians love Jesus, but have no idea what their place in the Story is.

How do we become oriented to our location in the Story?  Gary talks about three points of orientation that keep us "alert and oriented" to our place in the story:  story - desire - journey.  (This is part one of a 7-part series Gary and Jim will do.)

Gary Barkalow spent 7 years with the Ransomed Heart mens' team and is well-known for his teaching on calling.  Visit his site:  www.thenobleheart.com

Leave your comments below!



You are more than your job.

It's not about a job, employment, or an occupation.

In his book, Working, Studs Terkel realized...that working is about the search for daily meaning in the struggle for daily bread.  Most people, he found, live somewhere between a grudging acceptance of their job and an active dislike of it.  But a recurring theme in [his] interviews is a yearning for a sense of meaning that comes when calling precedes and overaches work and career.  -- from The Call, by Os Guiness

What if you lose your job:  Do you lose your calling?  What if you leave (or are asked to leave) a 'ministry' position:  Do you lose your calling?

Not at all.  As Gary Barkalow says, "Your calling can't be contained in any single job."  Why?  Because you take your calling with you wherever you go -- to work, home, friendships:  It is your particular splendor - the impact and affect of your life on those around you.  It is how you, in particular, shimmer.

Note:  "Shimmer" will be the title of my upcoming book on identity.  I'll try to give you bits and pieces of it here on the blog as the book takes shape.

Ideally, your 'job' will line up with your calling.  Yet there are times, when God (for good reasons) assigns us to a job that doesn't seem to match -- yet he still needs you to bring your splendor and unique brilliance there.  Don't underestimate the importance of what you bring, wherever you are.