Feb 16 2014

“The Species With a Call”

Otter Creek Park sunsetIn recent days I’ve been reading a new book authored by Drexel Rayford.  Drexel has been a dear friend for about thirty years.  You may recall that a few months ago I shared some things from one of his blogs with you on this site.  His new book is called The Species with a Call and I highly recommend it to you.  I recommend it not only because of my friendship with Drexel but due to the book’s subject matter.  It certainly dovetails with the themes of Seeing Creation.

Tioga FallsThe Species with a Call is primarily a book about vocation.  I can assure you that Drexel’s understanding of vocation is likely different than that espoused by most people today.  At the end of one chapter he writes, “All of Creation is a conversation between the Person and Creation, including humans spoken into existence.  That’s why vocation lies at the center of our being.  God’s voice, God’s call, God’s invitation to participate with God in the ongoing process of tending to and caring for Creation is woven into the very fabric of our humanity.  We share this vocation, all of us.”  Most people tend to equate their vocation with their job.  Using the Scriptures as a guide Drexel argues that the two are not necessarily the same thing.  He believes we all share a common vocation or “calling” even though there are multitudinous careers from which to choose.  These careers, whatever they happen to be, should help us fulfill our common vocation.

Otter Creek Park creek scenicI appreciate the book’s emphasis on the communal nature of vocation over and against an individualistic understanding.  As Drexel points out, “Our common humanity involves a larger purpose than a single human life, and when we make this truth our own, we become less self-centered, better self-defined, more courageous, creative, caring, peaceful, and purposeful. We share the same vocation for the sake of a huge and marvelous Creation.  When we grasp this truth, we move more resolutely toward authenticity in our individual lives.”

Otter Creek Park fog and treesDrexel sees our failure to understand our true vocation as a source of many of our societal ills and most certainly our environmental crisis.  He points back to the story of “the Fall” in Genesis 3 and says “the snake’s concept of the human’s purpose was to consume the fruit.  God’s concept for humans was to tend to, care for, and produce more fruit.  While God called Adam and Eve to be creative producers, the snake wanted to make Eve and Adam into consumers.  According to the snake, the creation was there for the humans to consume. On the other hand, God called humans to serve creation and be productive within certain constraints.”  He follows this up by adding, “We have the capacity to discern how we can be stewards of the resources creation offers us along with the ability to restrain our consumption so that it doesn’t become destructive.  Eve’s failure, aided and abetted by Adam, was to succumb to the snake’s clever marketing campaign to cast off all restraint.  When they cast off their restraint, forgetting their call to be stewards with the power to say ‘no’ to certain forms of consumption, they also cast aside their authentic vocation.”

There’s plenty more I could share with you from Drexel’s book but my main point in passing on what I have is to encourage you to give further thought to your own vocation.  Do you agree that we all share a common vocation and that this vocation includes partnering with God in caring for and tending to Creation?  As a long-time student of the Scriptures I cannot help but affirm that Drexel is on target and that many of our problems globally, societally and personally are due, at least in part, to our failure to accept and act on these elementary but profound truths.   But Drexel’s book doesn’t just point us to the problems, it also directs us to the solution.  The solution comes when “the species with a call” acts appropriately upon that call.  May God help us do just that!

–Chuck

(For a number of years Drexel and I served churches about five miles apart in Meade County, Kentucky.  The images I’ve used today are some I took in that area.  And just in case you may be interested, and I hope you will, Drexel’s book, The Species with a Call, can be purchased at Amazon.com.)


Sep 25 2013

Learning From a Friend

 Salzburg as viewed from the Mozartstieg in May, 1978.

Yesterday I read a blog posted by Dr. Drexel Rayford.  Drexel and I have been friends for over twenty-five years.  He has an amazing intellect, is an incredible musician, a more than capable photographer, and has faithfully served a number of churches as pastor.  Recently he began writing a blog called “Epiphany Blog” for the Epiphany Institute for Spirituality–EIS.  I highly recommend this blog to you (although it says it is written for Baptists don’t let that deter you;  it truly is ecumenical in nature).  Drexel’s blog doesn’t necessarily focus on nature but so many of the things he writes about can be applied to experiencing God in Creation.  His blog entries usually discuss prayer and the various ways we can listen to or hear God.  As I noted in my last entry at this site, that, too, is an important part of our spiritual journey.

The post I read yesterday is called “A Spiritual Tourist?”  When I read it I immediately contacted Drexel and told him that I had written a number of times about the same subject on this site, the only difference being my focus was on a particular natural location instead of the beautiful city of Salzburg, Austria.  After our correspondence he asked that I send him a couple of pictures so that he could follow up on his piece by telling of my similar experience.  You can find these at http://drexelrayford.org/2013/09/25/walking-around-the-castle-walking-around-the-gap/.  I want to return the favor by sharing with you today Drexel’s original post.  Here’s what Drexel had to say:

When I first arrived in Salzburg, Austria in 1976, I wasn’t a tourist.  I had arrived in a city that was going to be my home for the next two years.  Like any tourist, though, my first view of the castle overlooking the old city overwhelmed me.  As I looked at that iconic cityscape, I drew out my camera and started taking pictures, like hundreds of thousands of others before and after me.  Those initial pictures, taken during the first two weeks of my stay in Salzburg, looked very similar to everybody else’s pictures.  As time went on, I never lost my love of that cityscape.  I returned to the bridges spanning the Salzach River countlessly, and – in the age before digital cameras – produced a couple of pounds of slides I subsequently threw away.  Because I was there over a period of time, though, because I lived in the city and moved around in it, because I wasn’t just passing through, I was able to see it’s streets, cathedrals and the fortress in a wide variety of guises.

Inside the Hohensalzburg, September, 1976.

I saw the city in snow, in fog, and in May of 1978, with a full moon rising over the mountains.  And on one particular occasion, as I went inside the castle wall, I saw beams of sunlight fanning through dust motes in a deserted passageway.  If I had only been passing through, those scenes would never have graced my eyes – or my camera lens.

Mature prayer is like living in a beautiful city and exploring the passageways day after day.  It’s that persistent, daily exploration that leads you to discoveries you would’ve missed had you just been passing through.  As you live with silent, listening prayer over a period of time, in all kinds of “weather” and circumstances, you become present in a much deeper sense.  As you live in prayer even when it isn’t all that attractive, “productive,” or especially enlightening or encouraging, you discover realities unavailable to the spiritual tourist.

So, dwell there.  Patiently live there.  Explore the silence daily, and inevitably, you’ll discover the true depths of its beauty.

Having read Drexel’s reflections I hope you will go to the Epiphany Institute for Spirituality Facebook page and “like” it so that you can receive future installations.  You won’t regret doing so.  If you’re not on Facebook you can also follow Drexel’s blog by going to www.the-eis.org.

–Chuck

(The pictures shown above were taken by Drexel Rayford.)