Tag Archives: vocation

On Being Barbara Anderson

The 18th century rabbi, Zusha, lay crying on his deathbed and no one could comfort him. One of his students asked the rabbi, “Why do you cry? You were almost as wise as Moses and as kind as Abraham.”  Rabbi Zusha answered, “When I pass from this world and appear before the Heavenly Tribunal, they won’t ask me, ‘Zusha, why weren’t you as wise as Moses or as kind as Abraham,’ rather, they will ask me, ‘Zusha, why weren’t you Zusha?’ Why didn’t I fulfill my potential, why didn’t I follow the path that could have been mine.”

Each of us has an original giftedness, from which we need to live and a calling to which we need to be faithful. Like Jean Valjean in Les Miserable, we need to ask the question, “Who am I?” and then live the answer faithfully and passionately.

Weird Happens

In all honesty, I haven’t found this to be easy. A critical part of my struggle with it happened in 2005. One Sunday morning three months into medical leave because of severe congestive heart failure, I tried to worship at the church where I was a Senior Pastor. It was the first time since my diagnosis that I’d been back. I quickly got so exhausted that I left the service early, drove home, and went straight to bed.

Curling up in a fetal position, devastated that I might never be able to be a pastor again, I cried out to God, “How will you use my gifts if I can’t be a pastor? What will I do?” My spiritual anguish made my body hurt all over. I pleaded for an answer.

The heavy, dark storm clouds outside my window split apart and a beam of sunlight shone through the hole. When I felt its warmth, I opened my eyes in surprise. Then, as clearly as if someone else was in the room, I heard a voice say, “You will be a writer.” The clouds immediately moved back in front of the sun, and its warmth faded. The pain in my body melted away. Finally, I felt peace and purpose.

I know it’s weird, but that’s what happened.

Being Barbara Anderson

So, here I am, all these years later, beginning the book I’ve thought about since that day. I could give lots of excuses as to why it hasn’t happened sooner, but no matter. If I am to be the Barbara Anderson I’m meant to be, my life and writing will be my pulpit. The time has come. I have finally begun a book to be published in the summer of 2020.

With this step, I am changing my blog–a new name with a new purpose. I’ll still write about the humor, wisdom, and struggle of ordinary life, but reference my faith more often. I’ll adapt some of my sermons as blog posts. And, I expect to have a few guest blogs.

Here’s where you come in.

Through my blog, I’d like your input for what to include in my book. If something I write inspires, comforts or challenges you, please let me know. If you remember particular sermons or blog posts that you want me to revisit, let me know that, too. Give me feedback on what you struggle with in life, what you question, what you believe. What would you like me to address in my blog and book?

Barbara Anderson wasn’t created to be a hermit–I think and write best when I’m in conversation with others. So, join me in a conversation that bridges time zones and continents. Help me speak to you and those you love. Please comment on what I write and comment on other readers’ comments. Let’s be partners with God, together. I”m eager to hear from you.













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Where’re You Goin’?

Does job equal vocation?  NO.  A vocation is  more important than a job.  Sometimes jobs and vocations overlap, and sometimes they don’t.  Even if we don’t have a job, we still have a vocation. Vocation is who we are inside, what our gifts are, what gives us deepest meaning, passion, purpose, joy and life.  When we find a way to express our vocation, our passion and gifts enrich not just our life, but make the world better, too.

Part of our vocation may be fulfilled in our work and daily tasks, but not all of it. Being a minister filled the part of my vocation that has to do with having a positive impact on people’s lives, and helping them know that God loves them.  But being a minister also includes making sure toilets work and the garbage gets picked up.  Those were not part of my vocation!

From the time we are born, we have gifts and abilities to be discovered. Within us is a whole, beautiful, courageous, delightful person, a creation of God.  Our challenge in life is to discover that wholeness and live it, not only for ourselves, but for God and the world.

Now I become myself.
It’s taken time, many years and places,
I have been dissolved and shaken,
Worn other people’s faces…”
Mary Sarton

Sometimes we discover our gifts and vocation by feeling such a strong pull to do something, that we can’t not do it. We can’t explain it to anyone and don’t fully understand it ourself but we know that we must do this thing.  We know that not doing so will destroy part of our being and is unfaithful to something beyond words.

This truth leads some people to change jobs, even leaving high-paying jobs to teach or work in non-profits.  Others stay home and care for family.  Some people write books or create art.  Some volunteer in hospitals or homeless shelters, or organize environmental clean-ups.  I know people who knit shawls to comfort people fighting dreadful diseases, make gifts of jam, or visit those who are lonely, because they know this is what they’re meant to do.  Others serve on community boards, sing in choirs, play in orchestras, or teach pottery classes.  These stem from their vocation.

L.A. Food Bank Volunteers

L.A. Food Bank Volunteers

We do this because not to raise our voices, put our bodies into action, or create beauty would destroy a part of our soul.  This is the difference between a job and a vocation!  Whether we have a day job or not, a seed of vocation planted in us at birth and needs to bloom.  It pushes at its shell and makes us restless until we let it grow.  Then we discover our life as it is meant to be.

“What a long time it can take to become the person one has always been!  How often in the process we mask ourselves in faces that are not our own.  How much dissolving and shaking of ego we must endure before we discover our deep identity–the true self within every human being that is the seed of authentic vocation (Parker Palmer, “Let Your Life Speak: Listening for the Voice of Vocation”).

In my life now, I write for the good of my spiritual health.  My vocation is the same as before:  to work for good in the world and be an instrument of God’s love.  Trying to write about topics that can make a difference in people’s life is the new way I live out my vocation.

According to an old Hasidic tale, the elderly, wise Rabbi Zusya was asked by a young man, “How can I become like you?”  Zusya responded, “In the coming world, they will not ask me: ‘Why were you not Moses?’  They will ask me:  ‘Why were you not Zusya?”  Then he said nothing more. 

Being true to our God-given gifts and vocation, is always, ultimately, better for ourselves and for the wholeness of the world. Be the you that you were born to be.  Discover the seeds within and let them bring forth good for you and the world.  We’ll all be better for it.