Tuesday, December 14, 2010

The Importance of Calling @garybarkalow @David_C_Cook

Gary Barkalow was a central player in Ransomed Heart Ministries until he realized his calling was to focus more on helping people find their calling. As part of that mission, he founded The Noble Heart, a ministry to aid people in developing their insight into their calling. Recently, he released his first book, It's Your Call, which I got to receive a complimentary copy of to review.

I was excited about the book because I love Ransomed Heart, really appreciated Barkalow's brave venture to follow his call, and also want to aid people in their search for meaning and purpose in life (although this is slightly different from calling).

Barkalow's book definitely has strong elements of the central principles of Ransomed Heart, namely that we need to pay attention to our heart with its glory and our deepest desires, as they are God's way of letting us know our true calling. For instance, on page 138, he states, "Desire or passion is not a deterrent to our walking with God and discovering our calling; it is the means to both." I'm curious if Barkalow influenced John Eldredge in this regard, if Eldredge influenced Barkalow, or if they just found each other through God. The language each uses to describe the power of the heart is similar, so I can see how Barkalow was a good fit with that team. That means that if you like Ransomed Heart and Eldredge's work, you'll likely appreciate Barkalow's work.

The book is easy to read with a deep, yet conversational style. Barkalow stated he originally had a lot of difficulty getting published. Based on the final product, I don't know why! :) While reading, there were several times I highlighted various phrases that were particularly powerful. This honestly doesn't happen all that often in books I read; in some ways I can judge how much I engage and love a book by the number of folded pages to mark a quote! This book has a lot of those.

Many of the highlights were of personal note and reminder to myself. One of the more generally relevant ideas, though, was that calling can and does come to us over the course of a journey that may or may not include our career or a formal ministry.

I often say that my career as a psychologist is my ministry, and that is true. Although I also struggle with wondering if my particular position right now is what my true calling is. I often yearn for something more. Barkalow points out that God may be developing us in this moment for something later on. He has some great stories from his own life about exactly this.

In particular, our particular positions may be being used by God to remind us that particular positions do not fulfill a calling. Those positions may simply be roles or assignments that may work in alignment with our calling, but do not equal the calling. On page 82, Barkalow states:
By staying aware that life consists of our calling, our roles, and our assignments, we can be free from the fear of having to create a career path or being stuck in a field of work/experience or limiting titles. We can move as God directs us and as our lives change, take the effect of our lives wherever we go. This is living in your calling.
This is so important. Oftentimes, we can get stuck focused in a career or title, thinking that is our calling, when our calling is much more important. In many ways, this idea reminds me of Christ's words of losing our life so we can gain it: When we let go of the life we think we are supposed to have, we will gain the life God has intended for us.

Additionally, Barkalow emphasizes that formal ministry is not always helpful. Rather, he says that "impact is not exclusive to or guaranteed by working in ministry (a church or nonprofit, philanthropic, or mission organization). I have known many who had to leave a ministry to find their ministry" (p. 121). For those of us who do have a heart for a formal ministry, we need to remember to not get too tied to it. It may actually limit ourselves, our calling, and our God's work in us.

It's Your Call does not lay out any formula for finding one's calling or what our calling should look like. And that's a good thing. Meaning, purpose, and calling are not formulaic and cannot be prescribed. Barkalow does an excellent job emphasizing the organic nature of calling and how it can powerful transform lives.

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