“If God is developing in you a picture of what could and should be, you will be called upon to verbalize that picture. Painting a verbal picture is the essence of visioncasting.”

Andy Stanley

I’d been reading Visioneering by Andy Stanley and thinking about this statement when my pastor spoke about the unfruitful fig tree:

”And he told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Look, for three years now I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down. Why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and put on manure. Then if it should bear fruit next year, well and good; but if not, you can cut it down.'”

Luke 13:1-9 (English Standard Version)

Look at the gardener’s response to the unfruitful tree: he wanted to dig around and cover it with manure.

And I had an epiphany: My vision is to spread manure. (And I don’t mean the kind that comes out of a bull)

How’s that for a verbal picture, Andy Stanley? I know. Pretty darn eloquent. God knows how make an impact when he speaks to me. In that moment, I realized my burden is for the unfruitful trees.

For those of you would prefer a non-manure related explanation:

My burden is for people who live on auto-pilot. Auto-pilot in a vacuum. I grew up on auto-pilot. My parents worked long, hard hours and barely made ends meet. Sometimes, they didn’t make ends meet. There was never enough money and never enough time. The sense of hopelessness was palatable. We needed the situation-defying hope and foundational peace that’s only found in faith. And when you’re on auto-pilot, faith isn’t something that ever crosses your mind.

I was raised Lutheran. Kinda. I remember Sunday mornings, one of my parents would drop me off at Sunday School and drive home to get ready for the church service 90 minutes later. They didn’t go to Sunday School. What they didn’t know what that I didn’t go to Sunday School either. My mom or dad would drop me off and I would walk through big double doors into a hallway which led to the Sunday School classrooms. As they drove away, I would walk across the hallway, out the back door, across the parking lot, through a hedge, to McDonalds, where I would spend my offering money on hashbrowns and a Coke and hang with some friends. By the time my parents got to church, I was back from my little field trip and blending in with all the kids who had just been dismissed from Sunday School. When people asked me if I went to church, I said yes. This was how I defined being a Christian.

By the time I was fifteen, the new house that was supposed to lead to happiness didn’t. Instead my parents separated. Life was a mess. Everyone in my life was living on auto-pilot. Self-focused auto-pilot. As a teenager, trying to figure out who I was and where I fit in the world, I was consumed with the question: “Is this is all there is?” Then In my freshman year of high school, I connected with a group of Christian teenagers and ended up at a Truth concert, where I accepted Jesus. I didn’t even know what that meant. I was Lutheran. Lutherans didn’t do “born again.” In confirmation class, I was taught the phrase “the gospel of Jesus Christ” but no one ever explained what that meant. At my church, you didn’t even need to bring a Bible to church with you on Sunday. You couldn’t read it anyway because they dimmed the lights during the sermon. I took advantage of the nap time – and I was not alone.

After I became a Christian, I spent years as an unfruitful tree, trying to disciple myself. Early progress was confusing and frustrating. But by the grace of God, through the last 30 years, there’s been lots of manure in my life. (Again with the eloquence.) I’ve had so many people act as a gardener in my life and – given my voracious reading obsession habit, the mentoring I’ve received from countless writers has motivated me to choose on purpose. They have had a significant hand in shaping my character, my faith and my goals. I’ve known for a long time that I was being prepared for a “good work.”

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17 (NIV)

For the last 6 years or so, I’ve been thinking about actively pursuing a vocational ministry. Thinking. Praying. I’ve always known what kind of commitment it would require and I knew the season wasn’t right. I prayed and wrestled with my own ambition, and because of my priorities – my intentional commitment to my family, I’ve purposely kept myself in a situation where my opportunities were local and limited. I know what kind of commitment I would require of me. I don’t do things half-way. If this vision is God ordained, it deserves my best effort. HE deserves excellence.

God has been moving in my life over the last year, starting with an opportunity to begin singing with my church’s praise team last March. Then came opportunities to speak. And more recently, opportunities and a nagging motivation to write. And one of the most encouraging prompts has come from my husband. He and I have been praying together and we both believe it’s time for me to actively seek opportunities to serve God in a singing and speaking ministry.

So let the praying and learning and planning and preparation begin. I need to be equipped. I need to be ready. Then God will move when he’s ready.

One thing I’m doing to get ready is drafting a book. (Not quite ready to say writing a book.) I’m also ready to speak in front of critics instead of friendly church folk. I’ve been a corporate trainer and university instructor and vocalist for years, so I’m not afraid to sing or speak in front of large groups. But I’m ready to be critiqued by other speakers. I’m ready for an objective third party to tell me what I need to work on.

One wonderful opportunity for me to be “covered in manure” by some of the Lord’s gardeners would be at the 2010 She Speaks Conference from July 30th -August 1st in Concord, North Carolina. This post is my entry in a contest to win a scholarship to that conference. I don’t know if I’m supposed to go and I don’t know if I’ll win the scholarship. But I’ll be ready and I’ll go where and when God sends me.

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