Friday, February 24, 2012

What’s the vision…

For Christmas, I received a GREAT gift: a coupon for another cooking class. The venue was Kitchen Window, a wonderful cooking store in Uptown. The class I chose- Knife Skills- occurred on a recent Monday evening. So around 6:30, I wandered in, took my spot at one of the room’s high-top tables and prepared to slice and dice, and not injure myself for three hours.

Y’all likely know that for many months, years now actually, I’ve been developing a love for cooking. And through all my experimenting and learning, I’ve realized that a cook’s greatest friend must be the knife s/he wields, and especially the skills s/he develops to use that tool effectively. After all, before any fire starts or oven heats, food must be readied, and what results will be shaped by how well that preparation was performed. Through trial, error and more than several Band-Aids, my knife skills have steadily improved. But the reason I took this class was my obvious lack of theoretical cutting knowledge. One evening at Kitchen Window wouldn’t dissolve that deficit, I knew, but I will admit to now thinking much more clearly about what I’m doing with blade in hand.

One particular insight I gleaned, which maybe you’ll find enlightening, has to do with vision. The instructor said that before cutting or slicing into any roast, onion or pile of potatoes, a good chef must have a notion, a hope, a vision for what the food will look like at the end. Say you’re dicing potatoes (cutting them into cubes shaped like, well, dice) in order to roast them. If you haphazardly, carelessly attack the root veggies, you’ll produce a mound of multiple shapes and sizes, each to be cooked at the same temperature for the same period of time. The outcome? Simple. Some overcooked pieces, others undercooked, and your dinner guests not uttering the hoped-for oos and ahs.

But if, before beginning, you have a vision for the basic size of each piece, you’ll then be able to plan the various cuts you make- start to finish- each contributing efficiently to the goal.

Now, stop salivating over dinner, and ponder spiritual growth. Perhaps these same preparatory principles apply, though it’s a tougher arena, I realize. One approach I’ll admit applying to my own soul-stretching is much like the novice knifing I inflicted on previous meals. I’ve haphazardly read this book, tried that meditative method, followed cultural fads and inhaled the so-called ‘life-changing’ ideas of whatever author tops this week’s bestseller lists. Sometimes, I’ve been fed well by this method. Honestly, though, I’ve usually found my spirit parched, unsatisfied, hungry still. Other times, though, I’ve had a vision for the growth I want to achieve; greater fluency in prayer, clearer direction for my life’s journey, peace during particularly troubled times. With that vision in mind for where I’m headed, I’ve then made strategic choices about how to spend my energies, time and money, and often- not always, but much better than otherwise- the results worked decently.

For instance, when discerning my professional path- specifically whether to pursue Navy Chaplaincy- I entered the Navy’s Chaplain Candidate program, went through training, studied the lives of previous chaplains and prayed earnestly on that topic. After a couple years, the ‘answer’ became clear: No, that’s not it. Rather, I’m called to be a church pastor. From the outside, it may’ve looked liked a roundabout road to that decision. But during those years, I became a Disciple of Christ, met my wonderful wife, became ordained, secured my first pastoral post and gained unique, profound experiences other pastors can’t claim. And through it all, my original vision held: I want to serve God through my career, and grow in proper ways to get there.

I write that not to brag- again, that’s one success story in the midst of many that didn’t work- but rather, to season your mind for the following question. What’s your current vision for growth in life- spiritual, professional, personal? And once you’ve decided that, what ‘cuts’ or steps can you make to achieve that vision?

Grace and Peace,


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