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Faith column: New book offers Christians guide to significant living

January 15, 2011

Latest faith column on Lutheran leader and author Kurt Senske, a lovely man who has been a great resource to me over the years.

“The Calling” offers a guide to living the life God created for you

 

Christians seeking to make spiritual resolutions in 2011 might find Austin author Kurt Senske’s new book “The Calling: Live a Life of Significance” the perfect read for the new year. The book, Senske says, blends biblical wisdom with secular strategies to help believers live the life God intends for them. Senske, who holds several Christian leadership roles, including CEO of Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest, recently answered questions about his book.

 

Austin American-Statesman: You make some key distinctions in ‘The Calling.’ One is the difference between self-help and Christ-help. Can you explain that?

 

Kurt Senske:When we seek self-help solutions, we necessarily focus on obtaining what we want. We assume that fulfilling our goals is equivalent to living a life of significance. However, being “successful” from an earthly perspective and living the life that God created uniquely for you and me are not necessarily the same. The good news is that we don’t need the help of self-help gurus to discover meaning in our lives. Our faith has already infused our life with meaning. Thus, in a world that measures worth by material goods, we as Christians are already ahead. This is what turns our quest from the ultimately never successful “self-help” to the always significant “Christ-help.”

What is fascinating to me is that our Christian faith provides us with a unique advantage. When our relationship with God is strong, we intuitively understand that it is our faith that influences the intensity of our daily living. Our faith compels us to go beyond ourselves in ways that no other energy can provide. When our faith is strong, our ego naturally diminishes, and we can focus instead on the needs of the world. We are no longer constrained to be successful by worldly standards but rather have the opportunity to be significant. It no longer matters what we do. What matters is how we live our life.

In the process, every activity that we engage in becomes significant in itself. We discover that it is the daily routines that we often despise that become our most significant. We discover deep satisfaction living out our life in a myriad of unsexy ways, day in and day out, over and over, knowing that this is how we are to serve in this particular moment — coaching our daughter’s soccer team, mentoring an employee, caring for a elderly parent, volunteering at a local nonprofit.

 

The subtitle of your book is ‘Live a Life of Significance.’ Many people seek significance by attaining wealth, status and power. In one of your chapters, you advise a life of simplicity, which challenges readers to overcome their attachment to some of these things. Is this difficult even for Christians to embrace?

Senske:The media repeatedly drills into the core of our being that power, wealth, material goods, beauty and success are the key to happiness. Because we are daily bombarded with these messages, even we as Christians can get caught up in this societal treadmill of never feeling like we have enough. We become so focused on making “enough” money that we lose sight of, and lack the time to live, the life to which God has called us to live. A Christ-centered life is not necessarily one of material poverty. To live a life of significance means understanding that material possessions can either be an integral asset in our service to others or a barrier to strengthening our relationship with God. In themselves, money and material possessions are neither good nor bad. The difference is how we perceive their significance in the context of our Christian lives, and out of that perception, how we use our resources. Adhering to a life of simplicity frees us from having to follow the never-fulfilling path of accumulation. It frees us to choose the profession where we can best serve; to have time to serve well our family and community. We are freed from a life of loneliness and spiritual poverty and instead are gifted with a spirit of radical generosity and service.

 

‘The Calling’ seems to be designed as an interactive workbook where readers are asked to respond to questions, make lists, etc. Are you hoping churches will use this book in group settings? And if so, how is ‘The Calling’ different from other spiritual workbooks?

 

Senske:“The Calling” is intentionally designed to be used either in group settings or for individual reflection. From my perspective, “The Calling” is unique in that it combines biblical wisdom with secular strategies to help us discern and live out the life that God created specifically for each of us. It is a “how to” book that encourages us to take the road less traveled, to in effect turn the world with its elusive and unfulfilling values on its head. We will no longer ask, “What’s in it for me?” Instead, we are reminded and taught to inquire, “How can I be the hands and feet of Christ in this world?”

This is not to say that the journey will be easy. Unlike Noah or Paul, most of us won’t receive answers to our questions of how to live directly from God. However, like Elijah, if we are intentional in our quest, we will hear God’s gentle whisper as we discover and live out our life of meaning. “The Calling” is a tool that assists us in hearing God’s voice as we enhance our relationship with Him and consciously diminish our own ego. It serves as a resource that educates the reader how to use our unique talents, passion and circumstance combined with 21st-century research, technology and even hard work to discover and optimize our unique gifts from God.

 

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 17, 2011 9:03 am

    Great column!

    I wanted to let you know that I chose you for a “Stylish Blogger” award. Basically that just means that I love your blog and what you blog about. You can get more information about the award on my post: http://talesofatravelingtexan.blogspot.com/2011/01/supercalifragilisticexpealidocious.html

    Hope all is going well.

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