Derek Johnson Muses

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Vocation of Writer/Artist

I have a conflict within my vocation as an aspiring writer/artist becomes. As an aspiring artist, it is my duty to follow my heart every day, but as a Lutheran Christian, following my heart causes me grave concern. I have to give into time of free head-space and wandering thoughts, but wandering thoughts in many instances causes me to turn to places I know I shouldn’t go. It is in those moments, I have to run back to the words and sacrament, remember why my Lord and Savior has called me to this life.

In many ways, it leads me on a course where it would be natural to despise God’s Word. The path of an artist is one of finding what is new. Read as many books as you can, listen to every kind of music, travel, met new people, have new experiences.The nature of God’s Word is to read it over and over, keep its sayings close, and there are times when I open it up and find myself bored with it after five seconds. (Previous forlornings on not knowing the scriptures.)

As an artist, you have to accept things as they are. If you can’t photograph a certain barn on the road without power lines getting in the way, then you have incorporate the lines into the photo in the best way. As a writer, you have to find the best way to express yourself. But as a Christian, you have to know that “all things are lawful, but not all things are helpful. All things are lawful, but not all things build up.” (1 Corinthians 10:23). While emotions aren’t wrong, using them as your only guide in life is.

Even as artists, you do have to make judgments about how you present your work. You have to decide what to edit and what to go with, and how to tweak your photos on the computer. There are some directions that an artists just shouldn’t go: even though the nude form is good, not every presentation of it is appropriate. You find a way to express yourself, but if others don’t find it meaningful, then what good is it?

But God is the ultimate authority on what is good, not man. It is He who sends rain on the good and the bad, and this is His creation. I just express it to his glory, Amen.

Poor who Hide, the Simple who Ascend, and the Place of Ambition: Application of Vocation

The doctrine of vocation is one that I am very grateful for. I delight in that everything I do, as a son, a brother, a friend and a worker, is to the glory of God. Earlier this year, the DoV (abbreviation mine, trademark pending) helped me to process the Occupy Movement. But as I continue to ponder the DoV, I keep pouring over situations where the application may not be as clear.

First, say you have the ability to be a doctor doctor, but you decide instead to work on the factory line or in a service profession because you want an easier life with fewer commitments or you don’t want to move away from your family, ALA Good Will Hunting. As someone who gave up the goal of trying to be a pastor (when I was succeeding in much of the coursework), this question rolled over in my head many times. Of you are a single parent and choose to stay in a less demanding job to spend more time with your children, the situation is different. The vocation of father is just as important if not more so than the one of a job. But running away from responsibilities?

By no means am I saying, everyone who works in factory is not fulfilling their vocation. Many of them are. In fact, most people are simply gifted with the contentment to do the exact same thing over and over again every day for their entire life, and this contentment is as much a gift from God as preaching or being a political leader.

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But what if you’re in a job you’re not qualified for? The situation: a manager for a growing company who joins the first year that the company is formed. The company grows, and its sales double in size. The manager assumes a great title because of his seniority, but, out of ignorance, he doesn’t perform as many of the duties as his position demands. Is he stealing from his company by doing less than he could? In some sense, he is, although he may not be conscious of it; if he should realize it, he needs to tell his boss what he is and isn’t able to do, and hopefully, the two can find an appropriate role for the manager.

And what about the head of a company? Say there’s an owner of a single restaurant in downtown Lincoln. He pulls a nice business and makes a nice profit, and people talk about his restaurant. He’s happy doing it, but then he considers: should I expand my business and open a new restaurant in Omaha? Yes, his business is good, but, with a single restaurant, he is very vulnerable to a bad month or a bad quarter. If he opens several new restaurants, his business becomes more sustainable, and he will be able to provide more for his employees and create new jobs, not to mention improve the community he lives in.

This is a dilemma that faces all businesses and causes us to face Gordon Gecko’s question of whether or not greed is good. Over course, greed can cause great pain and suffering, but what about the nature of business? Even though we may crack the one percent in America, but the one percent in America provide a lot of the leadership that give the ninety percent their jobs and food, even through charitable donations. And many of these wealthy individuals had to make hard choices and screw people over to get the point where they could provide jobs to others. Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs certainly had too, and all of their actions are not to be condone. But to provide for many, hard choices do have to be made.

This is where vocation for me becomes a dilemma between doing what you are able, right in front of you, to doing what God calls you to do out of faith (like Abram leaving his homeland). Take my situation. I believe now that God probably was calling me to be a pastor at that time, but through a series of events that culminated my senior year, I didn’t go. Since then, other opportunities have arisen, and now my vocation is to work for my father, display photographs, write this blog, and write for Husker Locker. In many ways, it has been “all things working together for good”. Whatever God calls me to in the future is up to Him; thanks be to Him.

The Occupy Movement and the Doctrine of Vocation: Lord, Grant us Contentment

I didn’t follow Occupy Wall Street when it debut last fall (football season), although recently I used it to spoof the SEC’s domination of the Big 10. But recently , I have read up on the movement, and while I do agree with the assessment by the Occupiers, I don’t know if camping out in the financial districts of large cities is the right way to go. Colin Cowherd said on ESPN Radio, anyone of these people could invest themselves in being a good doctor or lawyer, they could end up earning what they demanded of others.

But I will acknowledge: people do have a right to be upset with the rich in this country. The financial crisis hurt a many people demolished their savings, and the rich were the ones who first made mortgages an investment commodity and sought to sell as many as they could, until they upset the system. Predatory lending was, and still is, a big problem. If the rich people aren’t willing to invest in getting more jobs into this country, people do have a right to be upset.

However, the answer to those problem isn’t to give people more money to the lower classes. Look at what happens to athletes who come from poor backgrounds get lots of money on pro football or basketball contracts: the majority are going broke, and these are people who at least pretended to be students on a college campus (another subject for another blog post). Just giving more money to people isn’t a solution.

And, while a lot of the occupiers want to blame the rich, why don’t the blame the lawmakers who passed no-fault divorce laws? As former Yale professor Dr. Jennifer Roback Morse noted in an Issues, Etc. interview, when divorce hits a low class home, there goes any saving they may have, and from there, a mother with two children can easily end up in straights. Forty years since the first set of such laws, and marriage has virtually disappeared from the lowest class in America, whose out of wedlock birth rate is seventy percent. Meanwhile, everyone who can afford to get divorced act as if happiness is the only social function for marriage. There’s a real reason to have class warefare.

As a Christian person (and I’m surprised that I haven’t found much Christian or Lutheran commentary on the occupy movement), I am forced to turn to the doctrine of vocation-God gives us all a calling in life, and tells us to be content with that calling. I went to school with a lot of people who were going to be pastors and teachers, and all of them knew they were not going to be making a lot of money and graduating with a lot of private school debt. But it meant a lot to them, knowing that they had God’s gifts to serve his people, so they carried on.

When I hear Michael Moore is saying on a news program that rich people have all this money and they owe the poorer classes, I hear the entitlement to blue-collar jobs that sunk the rust belt (a native son of Michigan, indeed.), and I recognize the signs of coveting. Is it wrong to call on companies to invest in domestic jobs? No, but those jobs are provided to those who earn them, with the proper education. Mr. Moore himself has made many successful films; would he just hand over $20 to any schmoo to make a movie? No; what he should be saying to people, is “Get your education. Pursue your idea to the hilt. There’s always room who work hard and pursue their ideas. I’m proof of that.”

I know what people will say “Jesus said ‘You cannot serve God and money.’” (Luke 16:13). This is true, and it is likely that a lot of the people on Wall Street love money more than God, family, and many other things. But is the person who goes to Wall Street and says they deserve some of the one percent’s money coveting? When John the Baptists addresses the crowd in Luke 3, he doesn’t just tell the tax collectors and soldiers not to extort people. He also tells them to be content with what they have.

As Christian people, we have an obligation, to talk to our friends about the Occupy Movement. Yes, rich people may done many things wrong, but we must leave their judgment to God (Jude 9). Instead, we must remind our neighbors and ourselves of the explanation of the Fourth Petition of the Lord’s Prayer: “God gives daily bread, even without our prayer, to all wicked men; but we pray in this petition that He would lead us to know it, and to receive our daily bread with thanksgiving.” Lord, teach us to receive our blessings from you with thanksgiving! Amen.

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