Be In It To Win It

Overview

God wants you to experience blessed success! A road map to an abundant life full of purpose, value, and meaning.

God made you a promise: you can experience success in your existence, from your relationships to your checkbook. But God is not a game-show host - He doesn't offer instant gratification. You have to believe and work in accordance with God's plan and make sacrifices in order to make all the pieces of your life - spiritual, financial, ...

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Overview

God wants you to experience blessed success! A road map to an abundant life full of purpose, value, and meaning.

God made you a promise: you can experience success in your existence, from your relationships to your checkbook. But God is not a game-show host - He doesn't offer instant gratification. You have to believe and work in accordance with God's plan and make sacrifices in order to make all the pieces of your life - spiritual, financial, physical, and emotional - fit together as a harmonious whole.

After all, God did not create provisions for Satan's children. God wants your needs to be met and for you to be a Winner. It is your responsibility, however, to be a fruitful steward of those gifts, by pursuing and discovering what God has planned just for you! You've already been promised blessed success, so why not find it and follow it through?

In Be In It to Win It, Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell provides prescriptive steps you can take to make the pieces of your life fall into place, including how to:

  • Find your calling
  • Create a divine to-do list
  • Take the faith walk
  • Stage a comeback
  • Whup the Devil
  • Develop God-blessed relationships
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Need some good inspiration and information?...A great read." - Shawn Dove, Black Issues Book Review

"Much more than the dull, ubiquitous 'how to succeed' guides weighing down the shelves at the bookstores today, Pastor Kirbyjon Caldwell has given us a detailed and proven 'road map' for how to reach for the best in ourselves and achieve the success God intended for us...spiritually and emotionally as well as financially...while at the same time helping others to do the same." — Marian Wright Edelman, president, Children's Defense Fund

"Kirbyjon is awesome! Be In It to Win It will truly help you to unblock God's blessings for your life." — Patti LaBelle, bestselling author of Don't Block the Blessings

"Success can mean many different things. Kirbyjon Caldwell's positive convictions about the goodness of life and the blessings intended for each of us are cornerstones of his advice." — Stedman Graham, bestselling author of You Can Make It Happen

"All through law school, Kirbyjon Caldwell was my pastor and personal spiritual adviser. His plan of action for spiritual, emotional, and financial success in Be In It to Win It is the path that I followed. It will be a great companion to your personal and professional Walk." — Star Jones Reynolds, author of You Have to Stand for Something or You'll Fall for Anything and Shine

"Kirbyjon Caldwell's Be In It to Win It introduces the Biblical Word as a straight arrow between your head and heart. It gives you the literal chapter and verse of how to fix all that ails the mind, body, and soul. This book is serious medicine: take the prescription!" — Patricia Russell-McCloud, orator

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781416549284
  • Publisher: Touchstone
  • Publication date: 12/1/2007
  • Edition description: Revised and Updated
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 716,756
  • Product dimensions: 0.65 (w) x 5.50 (h) x 8.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Kirbyjon H. Caldwell is the pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church in Houston, spiritual home to more than 15,500 members. As pastor, he has implemented many spiritual, social and economic projects in the community, most recently Pointe 2-3-4, a 234-acre mixed-used community that includes the largest residential development constructed by a nonprofit entity in the United States. He lives with his family in Houston.

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Read an Excerpt

Introduction

The Miracle

Beloved, I pray that you may prosper in all things and be in health, just as your soul prospers.
3 John 1:2
This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then will you make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.
Joshua 1:8

Imagine yourself in a house of worship, doesn't matter which denomination or whether it is affiliated with a denomination at all. Just imagine some holy place, bathed in sunlight on some flawless Sunday morning. Things begin slowly before gradually rising in a crescendo. You watch the choir setting up, the congregation filing in, the background noise of muffled conversation, shuffling prayer-book pages, and building anticipation. Then the pastor or any other variety of clergy walks onto the pulpit. Strictly for the purpose of this daydream, allow that person to be me, Kirbyjon H. Caldwell, pastor of Windsor Village United Methodist Church, in Houston, Texas, one of the fastest-growing Churches in America.

"Good morning," I begin. "Thanks for coming. We have come here to praise the Lord."

The words serve as a cue for a mighty choir behind me, a ninety-member vocal cyclone whose voices rise up in sweet tones of exultation, singing, "We've come to praise Him!"

But I'm not here strictly for praise. I'm here to talk about some bone-deep, dead-serious truth. Not truth about the world of the hereafter, but an entrepreneurial gospel of how you can maximize your God-given potential in the here-and-now. I'm here to help you identify the Faith within you that, once nourished, can rocket your life to new levels of empowerment and good success.

You might do a double take when you first see me in the pulpit. Because I don't preach in some regal vestment, not even a suit or a tie. I'm wearing a casual shirt and slacks. Expensive clothes are not a prerequisite to celebrating the Holy Spirit's presence at the church that you have just entered. We're here for empowerment, not posing. Any social barriers that might prevent people from feeling comfortable are barred at our door. I hope you've dressed casually too. Because now I'm directing 100 percent of my energy upon you.

Yes, you. Maybe you want a little more out of life — or maybe you want a whole lot more. Maybe you're seeking a more joyful life, a more satisfying career, deeper relationships, more money in the bank, better parenting skills, a more solid spiritual connection, a more healthy body, and a more muscular mental resolve. Or maybe your needs go deeper. Maybe you're sick, lonely, battling addictions, frustrated, suffering disease, battling low self-esteem, adrift in life. But if you're thinking God simply offers some pie-in-the-sky Sunday religious promise without regard to the realities of a Stormy Monday, you are about to discover a whole new world!

After all, you are a V.I.P. Like any normal person, you're seeking answers to three of life's most basic questions:

Value: What am I doing with my life that makes a difference?

Identity: Who am I?

Purpose: Why am I here?

Suddenly, the sunlight explodes through those stained-glass windows, the choir lifts its collective voice in awesome exultation, and you've found yourself in the midst of a miracle.

"We've come to praise Him!" sings the choir, clapping hands and swaying back and forth, a force of ninety people all pointing their fingers directly at you.

Then a light shines down from heaven and you hear some startlingly good news: God wants you to be successful! God has literally laid all the bountiful gifts of the universe at your feet...and I'm not just talking about the traditional concept of spiritual blessings but redemption in every aspect of your existence: your emotions, entrepreneurship, career, finances, relationships, health, parenting skills, academic career, and more. You have been given the promise of a successful and absolutely abundant life, but you must stand up, claim it, and develop a strategy to attain it.

You're on your feet now, arms in the air, running down the aisle like somebody who's won the lottery or picked the right door on a TV game show. The people who matter most in your life — your husband or wife, mother and father, children, friends, and associates — are gathered around you, hugging you, congratulating you, wishing you well.

You have become whole in every aspect of your existence.

You have entered the place of Holistic Salvation, with special emphasis on that first syllable. Whole. In this place, there is no such thing as a halfway God — or a partial person. Here, God doesn't restrict His grace to your soul, but watches over every aspect of your well being. God doesn't bless you on Sunday, then turn a blind eye the moment you step into the streets. God's Salvation is available every day of the week.

Whole. Keep this word in mind throughout the reading of this book. It's the one-word essence of Holistic Salvation, and being In It to Win It. Once you become whole within yourself and within God's preferred vision for your life, you have begun to position yourself in the aspired place of Holistic Salvation. All of the pieces of your life — your financial, emotional, relational, professional, physical, and spiritual pieces — will be in sync, not as pieces of some convoluted puzzle but as pieces fitting harmoniously together as a whole. You will be complete — ready, willing, and able to realize God's optimal plan for your future.

You might think the scenario presented above is a fantasy, but I've seen it happen over and over again at Windsor Village, where our worship celebrations are just as likely to end with a prayer for blessed social relationships or economic opportunities as with spiritual redemption. There is, however, one caveat: God is not a game-show host. God doesn't always offer instant gratification. God sets up a road to success, to Holistic Salvation, a road that can have as many ups and downs as a roller coaster, and only those willing to make the sacrifices of the journey enter the place where all your dreams line up with God's purpose for your life, whether it's an emotional state, a financial condition, or a spiritual transformation.

Now, I know what you're thinking: "Where's the road map, what's the fee, and where are we going?" Well, the road map is in this book, the fee is whatever price you put on persistence, and the destination is, as I mentioned before, a place called Holistic Salvation. Let me take you there.

The Power Center

I have discovered in life that there are ways of getting almost anywhere you want to go, if you really want to go.
— Langston Hughes

If you want to see Holistic Salvation in action, come to Windsor Village, a Church whose membership has grown from 25 to more than 15,500 in the past sixteen years. At Windsor Village, we don't just preach about Holistic Salvation; we practice it daily. We're a lean, mean Kingdom-building machine, with over 120 "ministries," serving the community seven days a week. There are ministries for everything from job placement and financial planning to weight loss and alcohol rehabilitation, ministries for everything that will help somebody step out of the herd and become a leader of his or her own life.

The story of Windsor Village is prayer coupled with action, and proof of the incredible power of this combination stands one mile from our church: The Power Center, the name of our 24-acre, 104,000-square-foot, multiuse, business complex designed to address the multifaceted needs of our community. The Power Center is our Church's physical manifestation of Holistic Salvation: We actually "salvaged" an abandoned Kmart building and auto-supply store and turned it into a reservoir of empowerment, serving the community's needs culturally, economically, educationally, emotionally, medically, socially, and spiritually. The Power Center houses a private school, the Imani School, a University of Texas Science Center-Memorial Hermann Hospital health clinic, a Chase Bank of Texas branch office, a Houston Community College business technology center, a Woman-Infant-Children's (W.I.C.) center, which aids approximately 6,000 women and children each month, and a full complement of executive suites, individual businesses, the fourth-largest conference center/meeting facility in the city, and much, much more. The Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, the BBC, NBC-TV, and other media have hailed The Power Center as an entrepreneurial incarnation of the twenty-first-century Church. We got the idea from Wal-Mart, a mega-market with everything under one roof.

Over the next few years, The Power Center will pump about $30 million into the local economy. It has already added 275 new jobs to the community. Most important, it meets the diverse needs of our community inside one building, bringing together the diverse pieces of life that we once had to go to dozens of places to find — which, in an important sense, is the essence of Holistic Salvation.

My mission in this book is to show you how to use the principles of Holistic Salvation to create an internal center of power in your own life. Just as God doesn't limit grace to matters of the soul, the power of Holistic Salvation is not restricted to the walls of worship. Holistic Salvation involves knowing that God wants you to be successful in all areas of your life and, armed with that knowledge and inspiration, to build a life that is the epitome of good success, as defined in Joshua 1:8.

To begin, you need to know where you want to go in your life. Yes, I know you're probably thinking that's not so simple. Well, using the principles of Holistic Salvation will help you discover God's primary purpose for your life and how to achieve it.

You Must Be Present to Win

First step to achieving Holistic Salvation? Congratulate yourself for getting this far.

I'm not kidding. You have something to celebrate. You've beaten some incredible odds. The fact that you're reading these words tells me that you possess the most important aspect of your ability to employ the principles of Holistic Salvation to find your Calling and follow your Vision into an incredible new realm of living:

You're alive.

That's one whale of a feat! A rare accomplishment! I frequently ask myself, "Why are you still here, Kirbyjon Hines Caldwell?" Why, when so many of the folk you grew up with, went to school with, or began work with are dead or dying, why did you survive? Why is God preserving your life? Why didn't you succumb to the growing statistics of doom that level our nation's population? What made that equal-opportunity destroyer — the forces that can snuff out a princess's life as easily as a pimp's — pass over your house?

By the time I was twelve or thirteen years old, I had been a pallbearer in more funerals than I had attended weddings. My high school classmates and Church members have been weeded out like soldiers in a war. Here's just a small sampling of victims from my high school class:

Fletcher Carter: the wrong end of a shotgun.

Caroline Wiseman: sickle-cell anemia.

Gerald Guinn: car crash.

Chucksy Ferguson: complications due to cardiovascular surgery.

Recently, another boyhood friend died even more tragically. He had been in a car accident about eight years earlier. He survived the wreck, but not the aftermath. He became a paraplegic. He never quite got over that. One Tuesday, during rush hour, he rolled his wheelchair out in front of an eighteen-wheeler on the 610 Freeway in Houston.

I could go on and on. Car accidents, drownings, suicides, drug overdoses, alcoholism, workaholism, unprocessed anger, cancer, brain aneurysms, self-destructive behavior...Death has an arsenal of weapons waiting to destroy you. Consider your own list of lost souls for a moment. Then ask yourself, Why am I spared? As painful as death is, it does offer at least one potential prism of enlightenment: Death reminds us of the wonder of life. Life is truly God's most precious gift. As the Nobel Prize-winning author Toni Morrison writes, "Your crown has already been bought and paid for. So put it on and wear it!"

Why have you been "spared?" It's up to you to determine the reason and live out God's primary purpose and promise for your life. God's promises of success are incomplete, however, without your faithful response. God may promise, but you must push. God may declare, but you must decide to pursue that Divine declaration. God may will it, but you must walk it out. In other words, God's supernatural power is maximized when it is coupled with your faithful application of your God-given ability. Remember this equation: God's supernatural ability plus your faithfulness to act equals success. Or as my grandmother used to say, "God helps those who help themselves."

You don't have to always ask God for some supernatural move as some sort of proof that God loves you. That's like awaiting permission from General Motors every time you want to drive your car. Add one critical ingredient...action! Never allow the enemy of negativity to paralyze you. It's easy to focus on what you don't have. Step out on what you have.

I'm going to give you a step-by-step road map to the summit of Holistic Salvation. But for now, there are four preliminary steps to begin as preparation for the journey ahead. Before you can find your Calling, then follow your Vision, use these four steps as sort of a preamble, a house cleaning, a way of preparing yourself for the inner and outer growth that is yet to come.

1. Realize that God wants you to be a Winner,
but it's your responsibility to learn and follow God's vision for your optimal future.

For a long time there was a gulf, a divide that eventually grew into a canyon, in my thinking between who I knew God to be and what God wanted me to have. I went to primary school and attended Church in the socially torn neighborhood where I grew up, in Houston. On Lyons Avenue, the crooks seemed to have a disproportionate allocation of prosperity. The so-called "bad guys," the pimps, prostitutes, hustlers, and numbers runners were driving Cadillacs and wearing diamonds, while some of the "saved persons" appeared to be struggling. So there was a gap in my mind between "being spiritual" and "being prosperous." This was further underlined by some churchgoing folk who thought you had to be financially broke in order to be holy. "It's tougher for a rich man to ascend to the kingdom of heaven than for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle," they'd say, quoting — and misinterpreting — the well-known Biblical verse.

Then, when I was in seminary, a powerful verse in Joshua 1:8 began to resonate in my soul: "The Book of Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then will you make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success."

I was floored. Lights literally went off in my head. "...you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe and do according to all that is written for then you will make your way prosperous. And then you will have good success."

"Whoa!" I thought. "God wants me to be prosperous and have good success! God did not make provisions — whether it's stocks and bonds, nice cars and nice homes, or peace of mind, joy, and healthy self-esteem — for Satan's kids. God's provisions are for His children, if they're for anybody!"

Note that all-important qualifier: Good Success. Which is to imply that there is bad success. The pimps and the prostitutes that I used to know? They had bad success, if they had any success at all, because their work was illegal, immoral, and unscriptural, and they were taking advantage of somebody else. The robber barons of corporate America who embezzle money, fleece the gullible, and defraud the innocent? They also have bad success. God wants us to have Good Success. That doesn't necessarily mean having a seven-figure income or five Mercedes and a Maserati. It means that you don't have need for that which God has promised. You don't have to go begging for bread, with your tail dragging on the ground and your hand stuck out, looking for love in all the wrong places. God is calling you to be the head, not the tail, crowned with glory and honor!

This realization can trigger a powerful mental realignment. If you don't believe that God wants you to be successful — if you never realize that God wants you to have self-control and inner peace, have a decent paying job, go on vacation — you will intrinsically develop behavior patterns that will destroy your potential to accomplish those goals. In order to receive and maintain certain blessings in life, you've got to realize that God wants you to have them. It is important to give yourself permission to be blessed. Otherwise, handling success successfully will be a constant struggle. You can become a spiritual schizophrenic, feeling that you aren't deserving of material possessions, emotional empowerment, or spiritual stamina or, even worse, digging yourself into the rut of emotional and spiritual poverty and powerlessness. Furthermore, unless you believe God wants you to be comprehensively successful, you're less likely to ask for the revelation of and empowerment for Holistic Salvation. Asking someone for that which you are not certain she or he can provide is an absolute waste of time.

For example, did you know that the ownership of land is sanctioned by God? It's practically unscriptural not to own land. In the Old Testament, owning land was a sign of God's presence and blessing, a sign of safety. It could be actual land or emotional land. Sometimes your Promised Land is not something you can see, touch, and feel. Sometimes, it's a spiritual move, sometimes an accomplishment, sometimes it's a healed marriage, sometimes it's an obedient child, a healthy self-image, or a healed body. The "cattle upon the thousand hills" of Psalm 50, verse 10, belong to the children of the Lord. In other words, because I'm a child of the Lord, I'm entitled to some cows. Not only is economic development okay with God, the Bible encourages us to go forth and prosper as well.

So the first baby step toward Holistic Salvation is to realize that God wants you to be successful — blessed with a bounty of Good Success!

2. If you want to be a Winner,
you have to have some funerals.

You heard me right. Funerals.

You've got to bury everything that's holding you back. If God ordains the blessings of good success, and you're not reaping your fair share of blessings, then there are some things — or some bodies — standing in your way. Now, think about this for a minute. You know what those things are. You've got to bury that fear, bury that doubt, bury that funky, nasty attitude. Bury those old family habits that haunt your current relationships with your children, spouse, friends, and business associates. Bury that wicked tongue that likes to cut people up one side and down the other side when your energies should be spent on your own self-improvement. Bury that mind of double-mindedness. Bury that indecisiveness, that self-defeating belief that life is nothing but rough roads and miracles are reserved for the movies.

Some of us need to bury some relationships with "sometime-y," parasitic, leeching so-called "friends" and, yes, even some family members. You can get a strong indication whether you are in a self-defeating relationship by asking a simple question: Is this person helping me propel myself toward God's preferred future for me or restraining me from moving toward that future? (This question is equally applicable toward business associates.) If you're in a relationship that is full of all sorts of headaches, hurt, setbacks, and danger, then you need to bury it. You cannot move consistently toward the summit of Holistic Salvation if you're carrying Satan's backpack.

Did I say Satan? Indeed I did! If you think that Satan is some cartoon character, just wait until Chapter 6. We'll devote a full chapter to Satan and his many deceitful guises. For now, know this: The devil is out there, waiting to trip you up. The devil wants you to become disgusted, disenchanted, discombobulated, and any other "dis" that he can think of. That's the devil's job: to "dis" you. To become qualified for success, you're going to have to do some housekeeping. You've got to open the doors on the devil's hiding places in your life and boot him out!

If you're always sucking up to what somebody else's expectations of you are, then where is your identity, where is your integrity? Where is your dignity, purpose, self-definition, and God-anointed power? Every now and then, it's better to stand alone than to blindly blend into the pack. In other words, it's better to be a lion, roaring alone, than a donkey, braying with the dirty pack.

Some folks' self-esteem is so low, they think so lowly of themselves, they do not want success — either for themselves or for you. Those are the folks whom you can ill afford inside your concentric circles of friends or associates. They will not only leech off of you if you're not careful, you'll eventually adopt their mentality. Then, your desire for excellence and your pursuit of goodness will begin to dull and you'll be ready to settle for mediocrity. And once you've settled in there, getting back on the path toward Salvation is tougher than ever. So get rid of those naysayers — now!

And funerals aren't just for people. Negative ideas and emotions from your past can hold you just as effectively without the benefit of arms. Somebody reading this book is still being held hostage by something that happened forty years ago. You cannot move forward if you're always looking backward. Learn from your past but don't allow your past to incarcerate you. Build upon your past; don't be buried by your past. You have to turn your back to the past and press on toward your high calling! Apostle Paul said, "Forgetting those things that lie behind, I stretch toward those things which are ahead."

This is not a rerun or a repeat! It's time for us to move on.

Consider these wonderful words: stretch, reach, press, strive...they're active verbs, lion words. Words of action and power. Now consider words like guilt and remorse and regret. These are donkey words, passive, mulish language that takes you nowhere — at least not to those places where a lion wants to go. Words that keep you sinking into the quicksand of yesterday. What's then is then. This is now. Your dark yesterdays can be transformed into bright tomorrows.

As it is written in the Bible, "But Jesus said to him, 'No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the Kingdom of God'" (Luke 9:62).

Say it loud: "Been there, done that. Thank you! I'm movin' on!"

3. Become qualified to Win.

After you bury your excess baggage and begin to move forward, you have to ask yourself another question. Are you qualified for success? If God were to give you your Calling and you could discern God's primary vision for your future right now, would you be ready to receive it? Are you ready to handle success successfully? You may not know where you're headed, but this much you can know: Where you are right now is not where you're going to end up. Your life is dynamic, not static. I once heard a very accomplished seventy-six-year-old man say with utmost confidence, "My best days are ahead of me." Yes, he meant it and, because of his conviction, he convinced me!

You have to prepare yourself for success, so when that Calling comes — and, believe me, it will come — you'll be ready to make your move. "Impossibilities are merely things not yet learned," the writer Charles W. Chestnutt once said. His meaning? The only impossible things are those we haven't mastered — yet. And becoming a master requires some dues-paying time as a disciple.

These days, there's a big belief in instant gratification. We want it and we want it right now. Some of us believe that because we can microwave pizza, TV dinners, and turnip greens, we can microwave success the same way. But becoming a Winner usually takes time. You want to tell other folks what to do at work, but you don't show up on time. You want to be a manager, but you cannot manage yourself. Somebody reading this book thinks they should be promoted on their job because they've "been there" a long time. Well, just because you've been there doesn't mean you're ready to move ahead, unless, of course, you're qualified. A person with fifteen years of experience may have had the same experience annually for fifteen years. Seniority does not automatically mean qualification.

If you expect to move up the food chain of life, you can't just wish for it. You have to be prepared. For some, that means education. For others, it means counseling. For others, it means learning how to influence people. For still others, it means alcohol or drug rehabilitation. "If you do what you've always done, you're going to get what you've always gotten," goes the well-known axiom. To expand your world, you have to not only know about the world outside your existence, but be prepared to step into it when that time comes. As motivational leader Tony Robbins once wrote, "Knowledge is one of the ways to break the shackles of a limiting environment. No matter how grim your world is, if you can read about the accomplishments of others, you can create the beliefs that allow you to succeed."

As an example of how qualification manifests success, let's consider the story of "Baba and the Marching Band" that played out in Miami, Florida in 1997.

The Miami Central Marching Rocket was qualified. Oh, yes, the "Rocket," the name of the 260-member marching band of the inner-city Miami Central Senior High School, had honed its music to near-perfection with grueling three-day-a-week practices. Thirty minutes of each session was set aside to exclusively train for a faraway dream the band held in its collective consciousness: to be chosen as one of twelve bands out of 260 entries from across America to march in the mother of all parades, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. When the judges made their decision, the Rocket rejoiced. The band had won a slot in the parade! But then the band members discovered it takes more than talent to march in the parade. It takes a staggering $185,000 in expenses. That was a seemingly impossible number for these mostly African-American kids in inner-city Miami, many from low-income, single-parent families. The school's resources were so meager, many band members wore pullovers and sweatpants because of a lack of uniforms and others were still waiting on trumpets, trombones, and percussion instruments.

With a year to raise the money, the band members began beating on doors, holding fundraisers, seeking community support, selling chocolates door-to-door, performing for pay at parties, and practicing, always practicing. But after six months of work, they had raised less than $25,000.

Then, one night, a forty-member unit of the band was hired to play two songs for $400 at a bar mitzvah in a Miami hotel. Part of the job was to march through the ballroom. As the band crossed the lobby in their green-and-white uniforms, they caught a wealthy businessman's eye. Not just any businessman, but Foutanga Dit Babani Sissoko, who goes by the nickname of Baba. Once an impoverished, unschooled West African house servant from the edge of the Sahara, Baba had amassed a fortune, first as a gold miner, then in oil, casinos, and diamonds. Now he's perhaps most famous for giving his money away: grants to schools and hospitals, $1,000 tips to hotel maids, cash to the poor and homeless, exhibiting such generosity that a rock star in his home country of Mali wrote a song in homage.

Watching the band cross the lobby, Baba sent one of his assistants over to ask the band members about their performance.

"We're performing to raise money for our trip to New York," the band's administrator replied, explaining the $185,000 plight of the Miami Central Marching Rocket.

The assistant huddled with the businessman. "I would like to help," Baba said. The kids watched in amazement as he pulled out a checkbook and wrote out a check. Then, the assistant asked the band members to huddle around the businessman.

"Would anyone like to guess how much the donation would be?" asked the assistant who served as Baba's interpreter.

"A hundred dollars!" exclaimed one band member.

"Three hundred!" exclaimed another.

"No," the interpreter said. "Mr. Babani Sissoko would like to make a donation of $300,000 to your band."

$300,000! "The roof went off the hotel," the band administrator remembered. The kids were so ecstatic they were jumping up and down, screaming and crying and hugging Baba. The businessman's assistants and bodyguards had to literally form a circle around him to keep the kids from smothering him.

When the Miami Central Marching Rocket blasted off in two minutes of Thanksgiving Day airtime on NBC, playing "Rhythm Is Gonna Get You" and "God Bless America," the band's national debut had made an important statement. "Our story sends a message we can all learn from," says band director Shelby Chipman. "You never know who's around you or who might be watching. So always be on the alert, always be at your best, and most of all, always be ready. It can happen."

The Miami Central Marching Rocket was prepared for success, even though they didn't know when, or if, they'd be able to exhibit that preparation. They didn't wait on their travel money before they began their journey toward their march down Fifth Avenue. The "Paralysis of Analysis" gets you nowhere. Action is majesty. The band acted on Faith and continued marching forward in their dream, trusting that somehow, some way, if they were ready, the money would come. Sure enough, when their blessing arrived, they could stand up and seize it.

Because they were qualified.

4. When God calls, answer...immediately!

How do you respond to God's blessings once they appear?

You move immediately.

Deliver me from pin cushion, powder puff people who sit around waiting and expecting deliverance like a letter in the mail. People who sit on their Humpty Dumpty behinds receive whatever trickles down. Like Humpty Dumpy, they eventually fall off their walls of complacency — and nobody can put them back together again. Life is not passing out blessings for those who sit and wait. You have to get out on that battlefield and claim your blessings. You've got to step up to the plate and take what is rightfully yours.

Some of us have allowed the devil to rob us of our blessings because we sat on our Holy Humpty Dumpties, waiting instead of going when God said Go! If God hasn't answered your prayers, maybe it's because the last time you asked He answered, and you haven't moved on the answer you were given way back in 1985!

When you are blessed enough to encounter a Vision, give it the respect it deserves. Move on it immediately! It's not just about doing it, it's about doing it now! Because to wait is just as faithless as saying, "No!" when God says, "Yes!" If you're hesitating, you need to know why. Because if the devil knows and you don't know, then the devil knows more about you than you know about yourself and will know precisely which traps to set to best drag you into the hell of disillusionment and despair. Discovering and dealing with your "dark side" issues is absolutely necessary for Holistic Salvation. The list of former and potential success stories who imploded because of a lack of self-knowledge and self-discipline is disgracefully long. We will deal with this in subsequent chapters. But for now, know this: You cannot allow the devil to know more about you than you know about yourself.

I've discovered that there are two kinds of faith. One is what I call a "buzzard" kind of faith. Buzzards out in East Texas are always circling the sky, eyes on the ground, never the horizon, looking to feed off the dead, whatever is left over after something else has come along and made the kill. The second kind of Faith, the Faith that we need to instill in ourselves, is an eagle's kind of Faith. An eagle always gets first shot. An eagle never hesitates. An eagle doesn't waste its time on leftovers or residue. An eagle swoops in with precision and power. We should aim for the eagle's worldview, refusing to settle for mediocrity, insisting on getting the fresh blessings on the front end, not the leftovers on the back end. An eagle's kind of Faith is a real threat to the devil. A buzzard's faith is circumstantial at best. The choice is yours.

To employ another analogy: Optimal living is like buying an ice cream cone. You buy an ice cream cone at 12 o'clock and eat it right away, then you get to eat ice cream. You buy it at 12 and wait until 1 o'clock to eat it, then you've got nothing but a mess. What used to be ice cream is now running down your hand and dripping onto the floor. That's the way a lot of us treat our God-given blessings. We were given the miracle of life, the equivalent of a heavenly ice cream cone of absolute potential and promise. But instead of licking it, we just let it sit there, some of us thinking, "I'll save it for later." But the longer it sits, the messier it gets, until when you finally decide you're ready to eat your ice cream, there's nothing left to lick. Your window of opportunity has shifted.

Be In It to Win It!

Life can be unfair. You do not always get what you deserve. You get what you fight for!
— Archbishop Nicholas Duncan-Williams

For some of us, there is a canyon of a difference between what we are experiencing in our lives right now and God's promises for our lives. Whether the canyon gets bridged is a function of our faith (of course!) and, more importantly, whether we are able and willing to fight for what we claim to believe to have faith in.

There is also a difference between being a Winner and winning. Everyone who wins is not necessarily a Winner. Winning is an occurrence. It is dynamic. It comes and goes. Being a Winner is a state of mind. It is static. It precedes and succeeds occurrences.

Be In It to Win It is about being first and doing second.

Be In It to Win It will help you identify God's preferred future and promises for your life. These chapters will also show you how you can obtain and maintain who the Lord wants you to be and access the spiritual blessings the Lord wants you to have.

What is the "It" in "Be In It to Win It"? The "It" is any blessing the Lord has for you and any carnal or evil challenge life sets before you. We must fight if we are going to win. Fight to win! Scripture reminds us:

  • Fight the good fight of faith...(1 Timothy 6:12)
  • You are more than a conqueror through Jesus Christ! (Romans 8:37)
  • You have overcome the wicked one! (1 John 2:13)
  • Your faith is the victory that overcomes the world! (1 John 5:4)

Do away with the inaccurate notion that the Lord does not want us to fight, is "soft on crime," or is wimpishly deferring to the desires of the devil and his imps! Nonsense! Apostle Paul reminds us in Romans 12:2 that we should prove what is the good, acceptable, and perfect will of God. Regardless of your present reality, the Lord God Almighty's perfect will is for you to be, among other things, a faithful fighter who is more than a conqueror!

Once you determine "I am in it to win it," several advantages or blessings occur:

1.Ê God's promises can be confirmed in your life.

2.Ê You can keep pushing even when you feel like quitting.

3.Ê Your God-confidence and self-confidence can increase.

4.Ê You can face daily issues with greater boldness and assurance.

5.Ê You can move from operating in despair to operating in hope.

6.Ê You can decide you will only settle for God's best.

7.Ê You can stand boldly and confidently on God's Word with authentic authority.

8.Ê You can grow in courage to use God's power to fight for everything God has already provided in all areas in your life.

9.Ê You can grow in courage to use God's power to fight against everything your carnality and the devil desire and deploy in your life.

10.Ê You can please the Lord!

How do I know? The preceding ten blessings have already been experienced by persons who chose to Be In It to Win It and fight to win!

Chapter One: Finding Your Calling

If you're seeking your Calling, the "why" of your birth, the first place to begin is your past. Here, many a signpost pointed toward your optimal future — if you had only taken the time to look, think, and listen. In the Spiritual Gifts Workshop given to all new members of our congregation, we have been able to help many people find their talents, confidences, and eventually, their true Calling in life. I'll take you inside this workshop and show you how to use its proven tools and techniques to determine your Calling. First step? Ask yourself what God wants you to do between the cradle and the grave. When you align what you truly enjoy doing with God's To-Do list for your life, then the alignment of mind, body, and soul — or Calling — will occur. I'll also show you, through the example of my own past, how to sift through the sands of memory for the gold dust of a new and absolutely enriching life.

Chapter Two: Making Your To-Do List

Our time here is precious. The second step to being in it to win it (and a very important step at that) is to establish your priorities. By thinking about what the Lord wants you to put first, all the so-called other important things on your to-do list will fall by the wayside. I'll offer my to-do list as an example and you can use it to evaluate your own life and what should be first and last on your divine to-do list.

Chapter Three: Staging a Comeback

The place where you begin the journey to Holistic Salvation isn't always pretty. But that's reason enough to get up and go! Just as every grand mansion begins on the riddled ground of a construction site, your new and improved life must begin on whatever ground, however shaky, you're now standing on. No matter where you are in your life, you can begin anew by staging a Comeback, following the proven steps of counted-out boxing champions, faded film stars, and down-and-out Churches to spark a powerful reawakening and a fresh start. I'm going to tell you the story of the comeback of Windsor Village and the amazing Comeback stories of some of the members of our congregation.

Chapter Four: Who's In Your Ear?

Allow me to introduce you to your newest hero (or "shero"): yourself! While you ought not be your only hero or even your #1 hero, making yourself one of your heroes is surely appropriate, particularly if you are making a Comeback that has been problematical. Congratulations! When you simply decide to make a Comeback from whatever knocked you off track, you are demonstrating a characteristic of a bona fide winner.

Chapter Five: The Faith Walk

Now, you're ready to embark upon a "Faith Walk" — in which Faith combines with action in an incredible explosion of power — toward your dreams. In this chapter, you will learn of the power of Faith, a fuel that renders even the most high-octane gasoline obsolete. When you align your desire with God's preferred state for your future and walk confidently toward your dreams, the seemingly impossible becomes possible in startling ways. The Faith Walk will be made much easier with the knowledge that for every step you take, God takes two. I'll show you how to employ the power of the great explorers to take the leap and march confidently toward the future.

Chapter Six: Whuppin' the Devil

Once you find your Calling in life and embark upon a Faith Walk, the devil is going to appear in one of infinite guises to try and trip you up each step of the way. I am going to show you how the devil morphs and mutates like some wily disease and how you can "whup" the devil by cladding yourself with the most powerful armor known to mankind. Once you defeat the devil, you've got to kill some Giants. What's a Giant? Well, if the devil is both the source of evil and the subversive thoughts that stop us — fear, shame, embarrassment, self-doubt — then Giants are all the actual things that we don't do because we think that we can't: seemingly unattainable goals, unfinished objectives, unfulfilled dreams. Revealing the seven attributes of Giant killers, I'll show you how to become a modern-day David, killing Goliaths daily.

Chapter Seven: Creating Wealth God's Way

More than half of the thirty-two parables told by Jesus in the Bible had to do with money. For an individual, or a Church, to deny the importance of economic development is like cutting off a plant from water. Today economic fulfillment isn't a luxury, it's a necessity. In this chapter, we're going to learn God's mathematics, a simple, yet practical formula for creating, and keeping, financial abundance in your life. I'll reveal the techniques we have used in our congregation to build everlasting wealth and explain how wealth follows those who discover their Calling and confidently follow their Vision.

Chapter Eight: God-Blessed Relationships

"Love your neighbor as yourself" is one of the most powerful commands in the Bible. Now it can become the most empowering statement in your new life. Saying that you love somebody and knowing how to love them are two different things entirely. It all has to do with knowing how to meet each other's needs. To discover the sort of person you imagine as your optimal life mate, you've got to become what you want to receive. If you're married but unfulfilled, you must become everything you'd like your optimal spouse to be. If you're single but seeking, you must become what you'd like to attract. If you're single and wish to remain happily single forever, I'll show you how to continue to grow in your "oneness."

Epilogue: Becoming a Winner

Welcome! You've entered the Promised Land of Holistic Salvation, the place where you're more than a sum of your pieces, but everything that God meant for you to be. This is not necessarily a place of arrival or rest or some sort of permanent pinnacle but the place where "new and improved" living can truly begin. Here's how to live and thrive there forever.

Now, put yourself back in that tabernacle of worship. Let the melodious voices of that choir cascade over you. And open your mind to becoming a Winner. What you did yesterday is now ancient history. Action is power, and success is sanctioned by God. Let's take the first step into the world of Holistic Salvation. Copyright © 1999, 2007 by Kirbyjon H. Caldwell

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Finding Your Calling

YOUR CALL TO GREATNESS

There are two great moments in a person's life: the first is when you were born; the second is when you discover why you were born.
— UNKNOWN
What is the highest secret to victory and peace? To will what God wills and strike a league with destiny.
— WILLIAM ALGER

I believe we are all born for a reason and it is our responsibility to discover that reason and redirect our lives toward God's optimal purpose for our lives. Once that discovery and redirection occur, you are undeniably positioned to be a Winner.

It wasn't until I turned twenty-seven — after living for twenty-six fruitful, rewarding, experience-rich years — that I discovered the reason why I was born.

I hope to help you develop a road map toward your destiny in the next six chapters.

This is not an ordinary spiritual/self-help book. No book written by a former fast-track bond broker with an MBA from the

University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School, on the cusp of making more than $100,000 in 1978, who gave up his promising career to become a dead-broke, entry-level pastor, could be called ordinary. It's usually the other way around, isn't it? You know the stories: I-rose-from-living-in-my-storage-unit-to-running-a-multibillion-dollar-corporation-in-nine-short-months! Not many authors would be excited about giving up a potential six-figure income and a job brimming with promise and possibility, a job that afforded me the new sports car, the power clothing, the unlimited potential...to become the pastor of a dying Church.

But something more than cash propelled me from one career path onto another, to discover a greater truth than I'd ever have known if I had kept my day job. It all started with a single recognition, a first step we all have to take if we are going to grow our lives from ordinary to extraordinary. It's something that we are given at birth but have to ferret out like a treasure hunter without the luxury of a map, something that can be the absolute starting gate of your new life, if you can only recognize it for the significance it possesses.

Now, bear with me a minute. Don't start moaning, "Oh, no, not another preacher talkin' about a Calling!" Really, when you think about it, every great achievement starts with a Calling, although I'm hesitant to even use the word. It's been abused and overused. Scoundrels go to prison and come out "Called." Public figures get in trouble with power, money, drugs, or sex, and emerge from jail or divorce court "Called." Criminals get "Called" right between the jury's decision and the judge's sentencing. Some folks have simply given the term "Calling" a bad name. Nonetheless, in order to begin the journey of Holistic Salvation, the word "Calling" is simply irreplaceable.

But I'm not talking strictly about a spiritual calling. I'm talking about a total reawakening, a Calling to realize your full potential in every aspect of your life. I like to compare a Calling to a lunar eclipse, only it's not the overlapping of the sun or the moon but the optimal alignment of your mind, body, and spirit with God's primary purpose for your life. When this happens, something will "click" within you, and you will know you've found your Calling. It's an instinctive, gut-level, spiritual experience. Prior to its occurrence, a Calling is a difficult concept to explain. It's something like Louis Armstrong's description of jazz: "If you have to ask what jazz is, you'll never know." You'll know it when you see, hear, and feel it. Until then, it's like a very dim light in a dense fog that you must follow until you find its source.

HOW TO FIND YOUR CALLING

Frequently, the seeds of your Calling are in the simple reflexive things you do to compensate for some real or imagined shortcomings. The actor/comedian Robin Williams was a shy and studious only child, forced to spend his days alone in his parents' forty-room Michigan home. Usually only a maid would be in attendance. His parents were always away, his father on business, his mother doing charity work. His father was so distant, Robin called him "Sir" and "Lord Stokesbury, Viceroy of India." The boy so longed for a connection with his mother, he began using comedy to get her attention. "I'll make Mommy laugh, and that'll be okay, and that's where it started," he would later explain. He had found his Calling as a comedian. But if Robin Williams had spent his energies moaning and groaning, instead of releasing his frustrations on a stage, we would have been denied one of America's greatest comic geniuses. His sadness eventually led him to bring joy to millions of people — and to his success.

Think about it: Did you react to a problem — or declare a passion — in your youth that may have pointed the way toward your future? If so, write it down and begin thinking about it in detail. Some of us are shown our Calling in our youth, but as adults we're required to take concentrated action on that Calling. This was the case of Sheree Perry, a member of our congregation. When she was a child, Sheree told anyone who would listen that she was going to become "a tomato lady." She's just always had a passion for food: cooking food, displaying food, discussing food. Knowing that cooking was her Calling, she grew up to be an incredible chef. But cooking alone couldn't lead her to the summit of Holistic Salvation, where her Calling would empower every aspect of her existence. She wasn't making any money from her cooking and, worse, she found herself in the middle of a divorce. Then, while driving on the Houston freeway one day, she says she had a revelation from God on how to turn her Calling into a career. She went back to school for courses in business management, and today she runs a lucrative catering operation. "The Bible says that God gives you authority over certain things," she says. "Well, He's given me the authority to cook. To taste my food is something that would linger forever on your mind. It's all the love that I put into it. It's just a powerful anointing."

Another child, another city. He was such a shy boy, he would routinely forsake the ordinary boyhood games to cling to his mother as she spent her days pursuing her passion — shopping in a discount dress shop. The boy's eyes would widen over the dresses that lured women like magnets. Back at home, the boy spent hours watching his bubbe, his grandmother, sew. The older woman had eked out a living taking in sewing after her husband abandoned her. The boy idolized his grandmother, and soon took up sewing himself, once even making an entire wardrobe for a doll that belonged to a friend of his older sister. "I never went through this thing most young people do," the boy would say later. "Going to school and not truly knowing what they want to do until later in life. I mean, I had a major head start — at age five, I had a pretty good idea of what I wanted to do."

The boy's Calling was clothing, and his name, Calvin Klein, has become a standard in the fashion industry for the past three decades. What initially made him different eventually made him great. Think about it: What makes you different? How could that difference be employed to propel you in a new purpose, a new meaning in your life?

Sometimes, your Calling can be revealed to you in a simple, single voice. You must hear the voice and heed its advice. That's what happened to Harry Wayne Huizenga, the garbage man. After returning to Florida following a stint in the U.S. Army, Huizenga was hired by one of his father's friends to drive a garbage truck in Pompano Beach. After a few years of driving that truck, a line that his father had repeatedly told him began resounding in Huizenga's head: "You can't make any real money working for someone else." Huizenga decided to take action on that advice. He started his own garbage collection company with a single truck and $500 in accounts, picking up trash from 2:00 A.M. until noon, then spending the rest of the day looking for new accounts. He became rich, first with his own growing garbage-collection company, and later, with the advent of the VCR, by building the massive Blockbuster video store chain. The garbage man had become a billionaire, the owner of three professional sports teams, and a model for entrepreneurs everywhere, and it all began when he heard and heeded words that he had been told for most of his life.

Finding your Calling opens the door upon the second step of the "why" of your birth. Because once you recognize your Calling and follow it to the place it ultimately leads, you will eventually gain sight of God's preferred future for you, a literal picture of what you're destined to do that's so bright and so unmistakable it's not merely a sighting: it's a Vision.

A Vision of who you can become and what you can do.

Perhaps the best example I can give you of the power of a Vision involves a man I first noticed sitting in the back row of Windsor Village one Sunday morning in the late eighties, a muscular African-American guy with a quiet yet powerful presence.

I had never heard of the boxer Evander Holyfield, even though he was a regular on Sunday mornings. Although he lives in Atlanta, his training camp is in Houston and he attends Windsor Village whenever he's in town. Later, he would even generously underwrite our new $1.2 million prayer center. But back then, I didn't even know his name until someone came up behind me on the pulpit and whispered, "Evander is here."

Warren Moon, then the Houston Oilers quarterback and also a Windsor Village regular, told me that Evander had boxed in the 1984 Olympics and had been disqualified on a technicality. "Now he's going to fight as a heavyweight," Warren said. "He has a chance to be a real good one."

As I got to know Evander, I discovered that one important aspect of his success as a champion was his ability to create a crystal-clear vision of where he was going. His vision came to him in a transcendent experience when he first met his father. The youngest of eight children, Evander never knew his dad as a kid. His parents never married. But they kept in touch, mostly because of the persistence of Evander's late mother, Annie. "I always promised myself that I would bring Evander back when he was grown," she would later say. "I didn't want him to think that he came from nowhere. I wanted him to know who [his daddy] was."

One day, Evander and his mother drove into a tiny Southern Alabama lumber town. There, Evander, a twenty-one-year-old cruiser-weight boxer wondering if he had the genetic material to grow into a heavyweight, stared at his father and saw a real-life Vision for his own future. The man was a broad-shouldered, 230-pound lumberjack big as any heavyweight. "It was a good feeling," Evander said later.

In that instance, when a twenty-one-year-old man met his estranged father, Evander Holyfield's Vision became clear: to some day fight for — and win — the title of Heavyweight Champion of the World. He could literally see his future standing before him. He knew from his father's size and heft that he had the ability to grow his body from cruiser-weight into heavyweight status. In that moment, Evander became a heavyweight in his mind. An ordinary circumstance became an extraordinary moment. A Vision was revealed; a future champion anointed.

Your equally transcendent moment awaits you, if you can only trust that someday, some way, your Calling and, later, your Vision will appear. When you discover not only who you are, but also why you have been born, then your hills are lower and your valleys are higher. Your journey through life will be smoother. That's not to say your rose garden is without thorns, but the trauma of travel is definitely minimized when you know where you're going — and why. Your life is no longer focused on defining yourself, but on traveling toward your destination. And on this journey, there will be some moments when the traveling is as enriching as reaching the destination.

Finding your Calling and a Vision for your future might take you a lifetime. But is it ever too late to discover what you have been born to do?

YOU'RE ON A MISSION FROM GOD

She figured she would remain a registered nurse forever. For almost ten years, she had risen in the ranks, from the lowest-level clerk to scrub tech to full-fledged RN, dutifully passing all the tests and doing all the work required, frequently coming home too exhausted to even remember why she initially entered the field. Sometimes, she would feel a pull from somewhere deep inside of her, a faint, faraway voice whispering three simple words: "This isn't it!" But she figured, "It's a job, it's a paycheck," and brushed off any thoughts of dissatisfaction with the dawn, as she trudged toward one more day in the life of a basically unfulfilling career.

If someone would have taken the time to ask her a simple question — "Is nursing your Calling?" — the nurse, the woman who had devoted her life to her career, would have had an immediate answer.

"No," she would have certainly replied. "But I'm too busy with the daily grind to pursue anything else."

Your Calling is nothing less than a mission from God. It's God's primary will for your life. It is the first step toward the Promised Land of Holistic Salvation. But while the process sounds simple, for many it remains extremely complex, a school of knowledge that education doesn't really address, a code that science has yet to crack. But it's something that is actually discussed explicitly in the Bible. What were you born to do in life? You were born to glorify God and follow His purpose. As we've discussed earlier, deep within all of us is a reason for our existence, a purpose, a Calling. Finding your Calling and following it is to not settle for anything but the best in yourself, and in the process, to glorify God and not to settle for anything less in your life. I believe that a true Calling involves three different aspects: first, the Calling glorifies God; second, it blesses, benefits, or helps somebody else; third, it brings you joy.

What were you born to do in life?

As a pastor, I have heard the question asked repeatedly, this central question of life. In our Church, we spend a lot of time identifying "Spiritual Gifts," God-given gifts, talents and confidences that the individual member can bring to serve God and our Church. But in discovering their Spiritual Gifts, scores of our members have invariably been led onto new and expansive career paths they could not imagine before. The philosopher Thomas Carlyle called finding our purpose "the first of all problems," and that's precisely what it is. "It is the first of all problems for a man [or woman] to find out what kind of work he [or she] is to do in this universe," Carlyle wrote. Work is the primary activity of living. Like it or not, we spend more hours on our jobs than in any other activity. If the work that literally consumes your days is unsatisfying, unrewarding, and unfulfilling, then the other areas of your life will probably follow suit.

If you believe your career isn't connected to every area of your existence, just consider three of the infinite areas an unfulfilling life can destroy:

1. Mental State? "An unemployed existence is a negation worse than death itself, because to live means to have something definite to do...a mission to fulfill...and in the measure in which we avoid setting our life to something, we make it empty," the writer José Ortega y Gasset once wrote. "Human life, by its very nature, has to be dedicated to something."

2. Health? "For many years, it has been known that job-related stress is a major contributing factor in a wide range of diseases," writes Laurence G. Boldt in his marvelous book How to Find the Work You Love. "It is perhaps not surprising, then, that according to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more people die at nine o'clock on Monday morning than at any other time of the day or on any other day of the week. [Monday is also the most "popular" day of the week for suicide.] Recent studies have indicated that the greatest risk factor for fatal heart attacks is not smoking, hypertension, or high cholesterol (of which we've heard a great deal), but job dissatisfaction. Researchers at Columbia University have observed a link between coronary disease (the leading killer of American adults) and the individual's sense of control in his or her work life."

3. Child Rearing? The pioneering psychologist Carl Jung said, "Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on...children than the un-lived lives of their parents."

Not only was each of us born with natural talents and confidences, but through the gift of Salvation, we're also blessed with something the Bible calls Spiritual Gifts. These are duties and attributes of the highest order which, properly employed, are intended to glorify God and bless one another. Realigning your life toward your Spiritual Gifts — whether it's the gift of teaching, administration, wisdom, giving, hospitality, or, to be exact, twenty-one other spiritual gifts — can rocket your life to an amazing new level.

It's up to us to determine what those gifts and confidences are. At Windsor Village, we offer all new members what we call a Spiritual Gifts Workshop, designed to help people find their specific God-given gifts and, we hope, their Calling. Some of our members pursue their Spiritual Gifts via involvement in a ministry. Others experience such a revelation over discovering their gifts that the revelation alters every aspect of their existence, especially their career path. We've discovered that the workshop basically confirms what people felt they should be doing all along, even though they had nothing on which to base those inclinations. They felt their desires were dreams, when they could have been realities. When your work becomes a labor of love, then it's not really work anymore. But I've learned that vocational tests and evaluations cannot compare to the power of a simple, single question, a question each of us must ask and answer for ourselves:

Who are you and what were you born to become?

You have to know your mission before you can accomplish it. You have to know your dream before you can achieve it. You have to

realize that somewhere, deep inside of you, no matter how bright or how dim, is an eternal desire to do something, an absolutely specific something. Through the haze of growing up and going out, as we attempt to walk through the carnival fun-house mirrors of parental desires, peer pressures, and career-consultant rap, amid the chorus of voices all commanding us to "conform!," in the blink of the eye between childhood and adulthood, we forget, deny, or never take the time to really realize what is it we were born to do. We look to parents, family, popular culture, want ads, or the marketplace of least resistance. We look everywhere, in short, except inside our souls, the place where the answers to our Calling reside. Some of us give up hope altogether. Some waste a lifetime drifting through dead-end jobs. Others settle for compromised positions, putting money ahead of dreams, and ending up eventually dissatisfied. Others accept whatever comes along in their lives without ever truly seeing what could be. God is not glorified when people are systematically impoverished, sick, disenfranchised, oppressed, diseased, unemployed, begging for bread, ignorant, and/or broke. When your life is reduced to a fight for survival, you are denying your holy mission from God.

The proof of the power of finding your Calling is evident in any real success story. But one of my personal favorites comes from Norman Cousins's book Anatomy of an Illness, in which the author visits the ailing musical master Pablo Casals a few weeks before his ninetieth birthday. The maestro was in bad health: his wife had to wake him, help him dress, and lead him into the breakfast room. "Judging from his difficulty in walking and the way he held his arms, I guessed he was suffering from rheumatoid arthritis," Cousins writes. "His emphysema was evident in his labored breathing....He was badly stooped. His head was pitched forward and he walked with a shuffle."

Before sitting down to breakfast, Casals performed a daily ritual: he sat down at the piano, arranging himself with "some difficulty on the piano bench, then with discernible effort raised his swollen and clenched fingers above the keyboard."

Then, Norman Cousins witnessed the medicinal miracle of a Calling.

"The fingers slowly unlocked and reached toward the keys like the buds of a plant toward the sunlight," Cousins writes. "His back straightened. He seemed to breathe more freely. Now his fingers settled on the keys. Then came the opening bars of Bach.... He hummed as he played, then said that Bach spoke to him here — and he placed his hand over his heart. Then he plunged into a Brahms concerto and his fingers, now agile and powerful, raced across the keyboard with dazzling speed. His entire body seemed fused with music; it was no longer stiff and shrunken but supple and graceful and completely free of its arthritic coils."

When he was finished, Cousins writes, Casals stood up, "far straighter and taller than when he had come into the room. He walked to the breakfast table with no trace of a shuffle, ate heartily, talked animatedly, finished the meal, and went for a walk on the beach."

What had happened was, of course, phenomenal, but a phenomenon all of us have within our grasp. It was the power of creativity, of a man at peace with what he was born to do in this world. "Creativity for Pablo Casals was the source of his own cortisone," writes Cousins. "It is doubtful whether any anti-inflammatory medicine would have been as powerful or as safe as the substances produced by the interaction of his mind and body."

The power of a Calling isn't limited to the masters of art and music. It's equally majestic when applied to the life of a dissatisfied registered nurse. The member of our congregation described earlier, Cheryl Pitre-Mitchell, figured she would remain a nurse forever. It was, after all, a secure job with a healthy income. A respectable career path. But it wasn't her passion. It wasn't her Calling. Then, she enrolled in the Spiritual Gifts workshop at Windsor Village, and took a written test designed to discover the answer to the question: What are you meant to do with your life?

It was a question no one had asked her in a long time. It got Cheryl to thinking. When Cheryl was finished with the test, her answers stretched across more than a dozen pages — showing skills in administration, leadership, and most of all, a real passion for teaching.

This woman was born to be a teacher!

She realized she had been a teacher, in some form, all her life, in every area of her existence. Even in her nursing career, Cheryl Pitre-Mitchell's passion involved the teaching aspects of the job.

"It was a revelation, like a lightbulb going off in my head," she remembers. "It was the first time I had seen my history tied to my present and my future. I began reflecting on everything I had been involved in since my youth. Even when I was in elementary school, the game I loved most was playing Teacher. Children would come from the neighborhood to play the game and I always had to be the teacher. But it wasn't just a game to me; I was dead-serious about it. Really, I felt that God had been preparing me all of my life to be a teacher. But it wasn't until I took that test that it all made sense. It gave everything I had done up to that point validation."

Cheryl Pitre-Mitchell had found her Calling, a launching pad for her new life. She became an entrepreneur, founding her own consulting business centered on her passion for teaching. Now not only does she run an extremely lucrative business educating adults, she has also found an even greater joy in educating young people in our Church. She traded a steady paycheck for her passion. No longer adrift in a sea of choices, she could now make decisions based upon a central question: Will it propel me in my Calling or leave me mired in the extraneous? By finding the answer that had always resided deep inside of her heart — that she was born to teach — she could move forward in the knowledge that she had aligned her life with God's purpose for her. "Additionally, my financial blessings have multiplied many times over from my paycheck as a salaried employee," she says. "Best of all, I'm doing what God created me to do."

To move toward your Calling — to "follow your bliss," as Joseph Campbell wrote — is to put yourself into the arena where real growth can begin to occur. Cheryl Pitre-Mitchell, registered nurse, would have been forever stranded in the 9-to-5; Cheryl Pitre-Mitchell, an entrepreneur/teacher who absolutely adores her work, has placed herself on the launching pad for a personal and professional blastoff. In the words of Martin Luther King, "We are prone to judge success by the index of our salaries or the size of our automobiles rather than the quality of our service and relationship to mankind." To which I'd like to add a quote from Emerson: "If you love and serve man, you cannot, by any hiding or stratagem, escape remuneration."

The rule is this: Do what you love, the money will follow. The author Marsha Sinetar discovered this firsthand. Eighteen years ago, she had what she calls a "great longing to change my life." She had a secure job in public education, a nice home, family and friends nearby. But deep inside, she was dissatisfied and too scared to do anything about it.

"In reality, I did not truly trust myself," she writes. "I was afraid to cross uncharted, unconventional waters to get to a more desirable place in life, afraid that — when truth be told — I would not have the requisite strength and competence to accomplish what I so dearly wanted.... My mind clung so desperately to the familiar."

Then, one day, as she was driving to work in Los Angeles, a random thought entered her head, "as clear a thought as if someone were speaking to me: 'Do what you love, the money will follow.'" At that moment, she knew: "I had to, and would, take a leap of Faith. I knew I had to, and would, step out, cut myself loose from all those things that seemed to bind me. I knew I would start doing what I most enjoyed: writing, working with industry (instead of public education), and living in the country, instead of the city."

Marsha Sinetar followed her Calling. She did what she loved, and the money did, indeed, follow. Today, she owns her own successful private practice in organizational psychology, mediation, and corporate "change management," advising some of America's top corporate executives. Her philosophies have so withstood the test of time she wrote a book about it. Its title? Do What You Love, the Money Will Follow.

Listen to those "random" thoughts that appear in your head; they might not be as random as they appear.

It all starts with a single question, a question I now want to pose to you: What are you meant to do with your life? If you don't know the answer yet, don't worry. It will eventually come, if you keep asking yourself that crucial question. That question is the first step toward finding your Calling, your mission, your dream.

After you ask yourself the first question, take the Spiritual Gifts Workshop test in the box below:

Consider the following questions. Write your answers down,
being as specific as possible. Give examples. Use as much space as you need.
1. What unique gifts has God bestowed upon you?
2. Are you using those gifts or denying them?
3. What is the first step you could take to use those gifts toward your future?
4. What would it take for you to realign your life with your gifts as your guide?
5. What do you most enjoy doing? (What are your Joys?)
6. What can you do? (What are your Competencies?)
7. Do your joys and competencies add value to the lives of others?

Remember, life is made of moments. It's a slow and steady journey, not an overnight trip. Throughout your search, remain patient, always remembering that while you might not have yet found your calling your present occupation or pursuit may be preparing you to be Called. Positive steps are never wasted; consider what you're doing now as groundwork for future glory. Ask God to use your present to prepare you for your future.

The music of your Calling is all around you — if you will only take the time to listen. God can communicate to you through events, persons, or situations. Listen to God and pay attention. A personal disaster can be a wakeup call. Trust these happenings. View every moment as a gift from God. Look beyond the event at the message or wisdom it may bring. The heavens might not open. The angels might not sing. But a glimpse of blue sky in the darkness can lead you just as assuredly to God as the lightning bolt or the angel's song.

Heed your Call, no matter how simple it seems. Once you heed your call, be assured that the Holy Spirit is able to sustain and crystallize your calling.

THE SEEDS OF YOUR FUTURE COULD BE PLANTED IN THE FIELDS OF YOUR PAST

What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matters compared to what lies within us.
— RALPH WALDO EMERSON

"Flood is the word they use," wrote Toni Morrison of the Mississippi River's tendency to routinely flood sections where man straightened the river to make room for development. "But, in fact, it's not flooding, it's remembering. Remembering what it used to be. All water has a perfect memory and is forever trying to get back to where it was."

We, too, know instinctively who we are. All we have to do is look back and remember who and what we were before life, like the river developers, began trying to "straighten us out."

I believe one answer to why you were born is in the where of your birth, and if you examine your past you'll find signposts pointing toward your optimal future. Let me tell you about my own evolution in the hope that while reading you'll be inclined to begin searching your own past for clues to your Calling. Think of the process as something like reassembling the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle until you can recognize a pattern. I think you'll be amazed at the patterns that will appear. I know I was when I reassembled mine.

I was born on August 4, 1953, the son of a tailor shop owner and a home-economics public school teacher, in St. Elizabeth's, an all-black hospital in the Fifth Ward of Houston. I was named by a language-loving uncle who, after returning from France after the war, suggested joining my two grandparents' first names — Kirby and John — into Kirbyjon. Some might have wanted to argue that this "fancy" name seemed out of place in my neighborhood. I was brought up in Kashmere Gardens, on the border of the Fifth Ward, where one section was called "the Bloody Fifth" for its habit of hosting at least one homicide every weekend.

Although civic pride and a sense of community were quite pronounced, money, or the lack of it, was the common denominator in the Fifth Ward. But while we might have been lacking some material things, we never felt disadvantaged. My folks gave me a love that was warm and constant. I rode to kindergarten at Texas Southern University with my dad and back home with my granddad, Kirby Hines, who worked as the superintendent of buildings and grounds. I rode to grade school with my mother, who taught and subsequently became a counselor at the high school across the street. On weekends I worked in my father's tailor shop, Caldwell's Tailors, at 3304 Lyons Avenue, in the heart of the Fifth Ward. On Lyons Avenue, you could see all sides of life: hotels, pool halls, taverns, dope dens, houses of prostitution, and right next door to my daddy's tailor shop, Club Matinee, a mecca for black entertainment. On weekends, Club Matinee was rocking with the live music of the greatest names in show business, from Ray Charles to B. B. King, many of them wearing clothes made by my father.

From the beginning, I was exposed to all sides of life. I worked amid the pockets of poverty of Lyons Avenue on one hand; I experienced the soul-stirring redemption of our Church on the other hand. I lived in a neighborhood of pimps and prostitutes and hustlers and pigeon droppers on one hand and was supported by a very stable loving family on the other hand. I heard people talking about Black Power on one hand, but cried when black folk burglarized my daddy's tailor shop on the other hand. I had this strong sense of duty to my community on one hand and had my next-door neighbor break into our house twice on the other hand. I witnessed choir members who were my grandmother's contemporaries sing traditional hymns on Sundays on one hand, and on the other had Tina Turner walk into my boyhood bedroom when she came over to have dinner with my parents and kiss me goodnight on the forehead.

It was a world of good and bad, success and failure, conservative and cutting-edge. What a world of differences! What a balance! One of the dropouts who preceded me at my first junior high school was a big, rambunctious student named George Foreman, who joined the Job Corps just after being suspended for breaking a hundred or so school windows with rocks. In the Job Corps, Big George found his Calling — boxing. He earned an Olympic gold medal, turned professional, stripped Joe Frazier of the heavyweight title, and came back ten years later to become the oldest heavyweight champion in history.

The Job Corps gave Foreman an avenue, a road, a direction toward his Calling — boxing — and eventually that Calling led to his Vision: first winning the heavyweight championship of the world and later using his fame and natural magnetism in a second career as a minister. On the other hand, I watched the downward spiral of our next-door neighbor, the kid who twice burglarized our home. He could never get out of his pain long enough to find his Calling, much less a Vision for his future, and he rotted away like a piece of old fruit.

What kind of world was I living in? Where I'd be awakened by a telephone call from the burglar alarm company after another break-in at my daddy's tailor shop one night and be kissed into dreams by the queen of rock 'n' roll the next? Where I watched the demise of our next-door neighbor, the burglar, on one hand and the rise of George Foreman on the other? Where I'd hear Stokely Carmichael preaching about Black Power during the day and be awakened in the middle of the night because black folks pulled another "crash burglary," driving a car through the plate-glass window, at my daddy's store? Where I'd watch my father — without a single curse word or even apparent anger or resentment — resiliently restock his store like a patient man building a sand castle on a beach, only to have another burglary a few weeks later knock it all down once again, until every insurance company in Houston denied my dad insurance coverage?

It would be years before I would enter the seminary and read the passage in Joshua 1:8 about how God wants us to have "good success," a passage that would trigger the realization that the wealth of the world — whether spiritual, mental, or material — is meant to be enjoyed by God's children, not Satan's henchmen. But back then, the Lord had merely planted a seed; He hadn't yet led me to the garden.

From the relative calm of Kashmere Gardens, we drove to Mount Vernon Methodist in the Fifth Ward, where my parents got married and my mother's parents got married. Come rain, shine, burglary, or homicide, we sat in that Church virtually every Sunday. Thinking back now, I remember that Church not as a white house high on the hill above the wreckage below, but as a haven set solidly in the middle of it.

I had found my Rock, my Salvation, in my home Church. But amid the swirl of growing up, in the multitude of choices that began to cloud my vision and block my clear career path, I wasn't yetready to accept the Church as the site of my Calling, certainly not a career Calling. But nonetheless, there it stood, a beacon, shining in the darkness.

Now, pause for a moment and consider your own childhood. Ask yourself a few central questions and write down some answers:

1. What did you truly love to do as a child? 2. What events tapped into your emotions, especially the emotion of joy? 3. Who did you most admire as a child? 4. If your life were a movie with you as the main character, is there a moment from your childhood that could be staged as an awakening? 5. When people asked, "What do you want to do when you grow up?," what was your answer?

CONSIDER YOUR NATURAL STRENGTHS —
OR WEAKNESSES THAT YOU OVERCAME

When you are looking for obstacles, you cannot find opportunities.
— J. C. BELL

From the beginning, I felt that God was an equal-opportunity blesser in all areas of our existence. But the vision of Holistic Salvation was still a long way in the distance. Back then, I couldn't have spoken about Holistic Salvation even if I could have given it a name. Because I was a stutterer and a stammerer, the childhood victim of a speech impediment. Frequently, my voice just wouldn't work. I'd open my mouth and...it would be a verbal train wreck.

"You got to be patient when you talk with Kirbyjon," people would say. There seemed to be a short circuit between my mind and my mouth. When I got excited — and I got excited a lot — the words would tumble out in a jumble. My elementary school mates would tease me. But I kept right on talking. Although I've blocked it out of my mind, my mother tells me she took me to a speech therapist, who said I was suffering from "delayed speech," that I was "thinking faster than I was speaking."

My folks found a solution. Oh, yes, they did!

"Make the boy speak in front of people!" they exclaimed. "Let him overcome his speech impediment by speaking — public speaking!"

Think about it. When you acknowledge your weakness and offer it to God, then it can become a strength. If you stay in denial about it, then it will stick with you forever. Every time our school or Church had a Christmas or Easter program or an assembly or a prayer session, my folks would stand up and insist, "Kirbyjon'll do it!" Church programs and elementary school assemblies became my speaking venues.

Lord have mercy. I'd stand on the side of the stage at Nat Q. Henderson Elementary School, in the Fifth Ward, heart pounding, knees knocking, sweat pouring down my face, frozen with fear. My mama had given me a one-line prayer she'd gotten from Unity magazine to repeat for moral support. I'd repeat the line over and over and over to myself, so often before stepping out, trembling, that I'd almost forget my speech!

"God's will for me is health and harmony, and I am made whole."

There's that word again! Whole. Not half. I thought about this early on, standing there before the congregation at Mount Vernon Methodist, caught in that life of contradictions. The words repeated themselves in my mind for so long they became ingrained within me, an empowering one-liner that would serve me someday. But back then, I was only trying to win the battle over my mouth, and that battle, of course, I eventually won like a boy being taught to swim by being flung into the deep end of a swimming pool. By the time I got to high school, that speech impediment was virtually gone.

"God's will for me is health and harmony, and I am made whole."

It was a clue, a signpost pointing to my future. I had a gift for speaking in front of people! I would later learn that there was a name for my gift: preaching. But I wasn't ready to recognize it, much less follow it to where it would lead. Not yet, anyway. But God had planted a seed. I became a young voice in my Church. I served as steward, helping take up the money during worship service. I also made the announcements. As my voice grew stronger, and my passion for worship deepened, the old folks began talking. "You're going to be a preacher someday," they'd say.

I'd answer, "No way."

I was going to be a businessman. After all, I was extremely good at deals. I even cut a deal with God. I was determined not to become a bootleg preacher. If God wanted me in the ministry, then I figured he'd Call me to do it. I gave God plenty of chances. The first was when I was an undergraduate at Carleton College in Northfield, Minnesota. I knew that Yale Divinity School offered a program for folks who thought they'd been called to the ministry. I applied with a little prayer to myself: "Okay, God," I said, "if you want me in the ministry, then you'll use Yale University and get me admitted."

The representatives from Yale came out to interview me. I made the first cut, and then, during the second round of screening, they cut me. I got rejected. My reaction was...relief! God apparently wanted me in business and I was happy to oblige. I applied and got accepted into the prestigious University of Pennsylvania Wharton School, where I earned my MBA and headed up to a job on Wall Street in New York City to make some money.

YOUR CALLING WILL "CALL" YOU —
ANSWER WITH ACTION!

A call is only a monologue. A return call, a response, creates a dialogue.
— GREGG LEVOY, CALLINGS

On the fourth Tuesday morning in October 1978, my Calling began to manifest itself. I was sitting at my desk at Hibbard, O'Connor and Weeks, a bond-trading firm in Houston. I was poised and polished and a picture of professional perfection. I had all the fast-track credentials: that Wharton MBA and one year as a Wall Street broker and investment banker. I had just returned home to Houston three months before. It was the summer of 1978. I was a newly hired fixed-income institutional bond salesman, driving a brandnew gray 280-Z 2+2 sports car and racing toward a six-figure income.

Those were the days when a single account could erupt like an oil well, a gusher. The lowest guys on the totem pole at that point were making $50,000 to $75,000. Six-figure incomes were the norm. One salesman at Hibbard, O'Connor was pulling in $1.2 million a year.

It was the Gold Rush era of Houston, and I was standing on the ground floor waiting for those elevator doors to open and deliver me into six-figure-dollars country. Now, let me tell ya: that was big money back then. Not many African-American males could make six serious figures in 1978 — especially without wearing a sports uniform. The rest you could count on one hand: Gerald Smith, who worked at Hibbard, O'Connor and Weeks, and a few professionals. And I was in a position, it was generally agreed, to make six figures. It was simply a matter of time.

All I had to do was not mess it up.

But there was something of that "Calling" business still stirring deep within me, a slow and steady progression, like the soft yet incessant beating of a jazz quartet's drum. It was a faint sound in the distance, but I couldn't deny that it was still there. Perhaps I began to "qualify" the Calling about a month before I moved to Houston, in a most unlikely place. I was at my desk on Wall Street. It was a typical 8-to-5 day, and I was a green Wharton MBA grad, freshly hired by First Boston Corporation to work in the public-finance department. Still a trainee, I was sitting at the municipal training desk when that old familiar sense of "Calling" came over me. I was not ready to go into the ministry at that point. I did not believe I was to go into the ministry at that point. But obviously, my conscious had been percolated to at least being curious about it. The old folks would say God was still planting those seeds. In retrospect, maybe they are right.

On that particular day, I called Eugene Brooks, my mother's godfather, whom I claimed as my godfather, as well. Goddaddy had given up a profitable Houston liquor store when he decided to devote his life to the Lord. He served as a deacon in the Good Hope Missionary Baptist Church in Houston, whose members included the late, great Honorable Barbara Jordan, who went on to national notice as a member of the Congressional committee that investigated Watergate.

When my godfather answered the phone that day, we exchanged the usual pleasantries and then I got down to business.

"How do you know when you're being called to the ministry?" I asked my godfather.

"You know when you stop asking and start telling," he said.

Whew. I expelled some serious oxygen. Once again, my first reaction was relief. I didn't feel like telling, so I figured I hadn't been Called. I filed the thought back in my "Someday" file. You know, that attic of the mind where we stack up all of our "Someday" things. Maybe, someday, I'd want to stop asking and start telling. But for the moment, I was interested mostly in selling. So six months later, I barreled back to Houston, yet one more soldier of fortune.

Since Kirbyjon was too long and cumbersome for a prospect to pronounce, much less for potential clients to spell and remember, I went by the name of K.J.

Frankly, it didn't take a Wall Street background to sell bonds. The technical part helped, but what was most important were persistence, good relational skills, and a thick skin. The really successful guys were not as strong on the technical side as they were in salesmanship and drive and determination — and most of all, cold calling. Lemme tell ya, these guys could work those phones!

"This is K. J. Caldwell, with Hibbard, O'Connor and Weeks in Houston, Texas," I'd exclaim as an opener in the countless cold calls I made every day.

In front of me was a big board filled with "inventory," the bonds I had to sell: there were municipals, SBA loans, Ginnie Maes, and Freddie Macs. My calling area was Ohio, Missouri, and part of New York. I had a phone book filled with the names of chief investment officers at banks, along with a profile of the bank's stock and bond portfolio.

I would do my homework, make the phone call, and attempt to pour on that charm.

"Good morning, Mr. Potential Bond Buyer, K.J. here," I'd say. "And I've got one whale of an incredible opportunity to talk with you about this morning."

More often than not, I'd get through. I became impervious to rejection. But after only three short months in that hothouse sales job, the old sense of a "Calling" soon returned, this time loud as ten thousand fans at a collegiate championship game.

Picture this scene for a moment. There I was, the proud, twenty-five-year-old Houston bond broker, blasting toward financial security, cruising down to Austin for the weekend in that 280-Z to attend the University of Texas-University of Houston grudge match with my first cousin, James "Junior" Williams. Oh, man, it was the perfect fall football day in the football capital of the world. The winner of that game would ascend to the pantheon of the Southwest Conference, the Cotton Bowl.

I wish you could have been there. The Texas heat had surrendered to the first cool breath of autumn, and Memorial Stadium was packed to the rafters. The stadium attendance had broken all previous records. Extra seats had been set up on the jogging track, and grandstands had been built in the end zone. But the fans weren't in their seats. From the first kickoff, they were on their feet. So much cheering! So much enthusiasm! So much pride! So much energy! There wasn't any sense of suffering. No hint of anyone being without. It was one endless wave, thousands of people caught up in the emotion of being a part of something.

Early the next morning, with the cheering still ringing in my ears, I drove back to Houston for the eleven o'clock Church service. Still acting as announcing clerk, I stood up in front of the congregation and made the announcements about upcoming events and need-to-know issues. Then, for some reason, I started talking about...that game. I wanted to share with them the energy and enthusiasm of thousands of people standing on their feet and rooting for their team. I just couldn't get the cheering out of my mind.

"Wouldn't it be wonderful if everybody would root for the Lord like they were cheering for those two football teams, particularly for UT?" I said.

And I began to cry. Now, I'm not talking about a little catch in the throat or a solitary tear sliding down a cheek. I'm talking about sobbing. I'm talking about a flat-out, full-tilt river of tears streaming down my face.

Pastor Brown came up behind me and placed a reassuring hand on my shoulder. I had stopped asking and started telling, although I didn't realize it.... Not yet.

"Who knows?" Pastor Brown told the congregation. "This might be your next pastor."

And the congregation said in a collective voice, "Amen."

But I still couldn't recognize it, couldn't feel it, couldn't see, hear, or know the Calling. By its very nature, a Call usually doesn't reduce itself to easy explanation. It's tantamount to explaining the inexplicable, verbalizing something that is intrinsically not verbal. There is something about a thoroughly explained Calling — at least to the full-time pastoral ministry — that would dilute the power of the Call. It's like trying to describe your first glimpse of the Grand Canyon or your first step onto the face of the moon. Words will never do it justice.

But then, the very next afternoon, my office phone rang and...well, it was a cold call from God. I'm serious about this. It was The Big One, as they say in earthquake verbiage or in the language of nuclear bombs and heart attacks. And it re-engineered my life.

YOU'LL FEEL IT IN YOUR HEART BEFORE YOU KNOW IT IN YOUR HEAD

The next day, a Monday, at 2:00 P.M., I was sitting at my desk and the phone was ringing, not the phone on my desk, but a far deeper, more urgent ringing. How can I describe it? As I said, it certainly doesn't lend itself to easy explanation. It was a ringing that didn't make a sound, a rumble that didn't make a move, an incessant tapping on the shoulder. But when I turned around, nobody was there.

It was a knowing.

When you discover your Calling, you'll realize it, as instinctively as the Mississippi River knows how to return to its original course despite attempts by man to reroute it. You'll experience an inner synchronicity, an unmistakable sense of flow. Athletes call the experience being in "the zone." It's that seemingly effortless moment of physical and mental perfection, when everything is going your way. You're playing golf and you can't make a wrong drive or putt. You're running a race and you hit a stride you didn't know you were capable of hitting. You're making a speech and something clicks, and new words, deeper meanings, and richer premises burst forth. It comes from someplace deep within you.

Here are seven ways to recognize a true Calling:

CHARACTERISTICS OF A CALLING 1. Your mind (soul), spirit, and body are in sync. 2. Your synchronized mind (soul), spirit, and body are aligned with God's primary will for your life. 3. You are filled with resounding enthusiasm to begin your new journey. 4. You may not be certain which route to take, how you're going to get there, how long it's going to take, nor how much it will cost. But in spite of these unknowns, your enthusiasm does not wane. 5. You believe, sense or know that God wants you to follow the Call. Therefore, you proceed by Faith. 6. You realize that any other activity would result in a smaller or lesser contribution to self, family, community, or society at large. 7. Your enemies view your Calling as a threat, once its impact is realized.

My Calling represented the point in my life where God positioned me to create the greatest value to myself, my family, and my world. I'm not saying that prior to the Call I didn't add value. I'm saying the Calling positioned me to contribute optimal value, to be the best that I could be. Your Calling will combine, germinate, and package the best that God has placed within you. It represents God's best and highest use of your life. Any other use of your time would be a lesser application of your God-given personal resources. If you follow your Calling, you will eventually be able to apply everything that God has already placed within you to make a singular difference in your world. Can you imagine how awesome our communities would be if most of our citizens received and "walked out" their respective callings?

But of course it's easier said than done.

Going to work that morning, I didn't say to myself, "I'm going to quit my job and go into the ministry today." But when that moment engulfed me, it was impossible not to go with the flow. I had no idea where this Calling would lead. I didn't know anything about seminary, about the education and other requirements it takes to go into full-time, ordained pastoral ministry. But none of this mattered. This was not the point for questions or analysis. I was merely a passenger, riding something vastly bigger than I was. All I knew was that I was in a "zone." My mind, body, and spirit had become one, only I wasn't swinging a golf club or running a race or making a speech. I was being called by God to dedicate my life to full-time pastoral ministry.

In retrospect, I might have employed some intellect to the situation. But I was listening to some silent voice from deep within; a voice that I couldn't deny — and dared not ignore — an overwhelming feeling of "This is it!" It was a locomotion that overrode all logic. You just know it when it happens. At least I did. I heard a Calling so strong and fierce that it literally lifted me from my desk and sent me marching into my boss's office.

VANQUISHING THE VOICES OF DOUBT

Each of you must discover where your chance for greatness lies.
Seize that chance and let no power on earth deter you.
— CHARIOTS OF FIRE

Finding your Calling is a pivotal first step on the road to Holistic Salvation. But once you find it, then an army of "demons" — denial, self-doubt, insecurities, and a score of others — will arrive to attempt to derail or destroy your course. (We'll talk more about this in Chapter 6.) As the poet e. e. cummings wrote, it's difficult "to be nobody-but-yourself in a world which is doing its best, night and day, to make you somebody else." To follow your Calling, cummings wrote, "means to fight the hardest battle which any human being can fight; and never stop fighting."

This is beautifully illustrated by the Old Testament story of Jonah, the prophet described by author Gregg Levoy, in the book Callings, as "the patron saint of refused Callings." You remember Jonah, who was called by God to preach to the people of Nineveh. Jonah thought he was too good for the Ninevites; not only did he refuse God's call, he also booked himself on a ship sailing in the opposite direction. Not amused, God sent down a violent storm upon Jonah. Even though he was perhaps the strongest sailor on the ship, Jonah not only refused responsibility for the storm he created but went belowdecks to sleep in solitude. God's fury was swift; the storm increased in velocity. Finally, Jonah confessed his disobedience to the sailors and stressed that the only way out of the storm was to toss him overboard, which they eventually did. Jonah then landed in the belly of the whale, which three days later spewed him back onto the beach of Nineveh, where his preaching eventually converted the Ninevites. Gregg Levoy wraps up his story by quoting Arthur Koestler's book The Act of Creation: "The guilt of Jonah is that he clung to the trivial and tried to cultivate only his own little garden."

"If it's any consolation," writes Levoy,

so does everybody when confronted by a Calling, at least initially. Everybody, to some extent, backs away from their authenticity, settles for less, hobbles their own power, doesn't speak when spoken to in dreams. Everybody occasionally ignores the prompting of the soul and then the discontent that ensues, trying to distract themselves by counting their blessings, the reasons they ought to be happy with their lot in life, content with things as they are, things that may once have been be-alls and absolute end-alls but that lost their intoxication after five years, put them on automatic pilot after ten and became a prison after fifteen. We all have a part of us, forever incalculable and arch, that simply fears change and reacts to it with a reflexive flinch...and a Calling is a messenger of change, a bell that tolls for thee, and it brings on the fear that frightens away sleep....In the Afghani tongue, the verb "to cling" is the same as "to die."

Following your Calling usually involves some sort of dramatic change. When you align your life with God's will, the conjunction of body, mind, and spirit, or the Calling, will become apparent. Of course, aligning your life with God's will means that you must allow God to change you, shape you, work within you. God's character, by God's very nature, never changes, never deviates. God is complete. Once you realize this — that you have to change, not others, and certainly not the world — you have taken your first step into a new arena of living. You have reached the gates of Holistic Salvation, where you can begin to experience true growth.

Don't expect a welcoming party to await you. Doubters and naysayers may dog you every step of the way. Satan doesn't need minions; there are plenty of human beings more than willing to do his work. I personally discovered the devious powers of doubt when I decided to give up my brokerage career to join the pastoral ministry. Naysayers rose up around me like a flock of cackling birds. When doubts and doubters surround you — and once you find your Calling, they undoubtedly will — you have to focus and press on. This may be particularly difficult when the biggest doubters are the people closest to you. In a world built on conformity, the nonconformist is destined to doubt and ridicule. As Helen Keller once wrote, "Unfortunately, there is plenty of courage among us for the abstract but not the concrete. Dreams rarely stir up much trouble. But acting on them does." Act upon your dreams and some people will undoubtedly tell you you're crazy. Take it as a sign you're heading in the right direction.

"K.J., you've gone crazy!" my boss exclaimed when I walked into his office and, without one hint of doubt in my voice, exclaimed, "I'm quitting my job and going into the ministry."

I thought he'd be happy for me. I wasn't asking; I was telling. But I don't think my boss really understood. My coworkers' eyebrows shot up like red flags. A few former Wall Street cohorts even cursed. I'm not going to lie: they talk pretty rough in the bond business. Soon my phone would be ringing from my associates in New York; their doubts over my decision became an unexpected occurrence. Someday, those same associates would applaud my move, but back then, it was a collective chorus of "Have you lost it?"

"God has called me into the ministry," I repeated to anyone who would listen.

Other people came into my boss's office trying to talk me out of leaving, including the person who was instrumental in getting me hired, Gerald Smith.

"K.J., you must be crazy!" he said. "You're doing so well. You've only been here three months and you're on the verge of becoming a real superstar in the investment-banking arena. How can you make a decision to go into the ministry?"

I was so far gone, why hold back now? "It's not a decision I made," I said. "It's something God has called me to do."

Now, I don't really recall what came next. I don't remember leaving the office, heading to my parents' home — I had been living in my old bedroom since returning home from New York — or even sitting down with my family at the dinner table. But my mother, father, grandfather, and sister all remember the dinner-table conversation like it was yesterday.

"I have something to tell you all," I began. "I quit my job."

There was absolute silence around the dinner table. It was like the food was caught in their throats. Nobody made a move for a few seconds. And then all heads swiveled toward my grandfather, Kirby Hines, who was big on making, budgeting, and saving money. His fork was suspended in the air and his mouth hung open. I'd been helping the family out, sending them on vacations, buying gifts. And now this.

"I've been Called to go into the ministry," I said.

The ministry? My mother had a great-uncle and a cousin who were pastors, so we had a preconceived image of pastors' lives. They appeared to have neither any money nor much of a life outside of the Church. They lived in the parsonage adjoining the church, which was supposed to make up for the low salary, where the congregation could keep constant watch over the pastor's business. Now the successful son/grandson/brother of the Caldwell clan was headed into the gray life of no diversity, no fun, and no money!

My grandfather began firing questions, most around a central theme: You've got years of seminary ahead. How do you expect to pay for it? How are you going to live? How are you going to support yourself?

I had no concrete answers to my path. But I had no doubts as to my direction.

"The decision is made," I said. "I'm basically just sharing the news with you."

I couldn't be dissuaded. And then something happened that I do remember: Right after quitting my job and telling my family, I experienced the greatest sense of peace and tranquillity and inner synergy I'd ever experienced. It was absolutely overwhelming.

I had taken a major first step. I had finally taken the majestic step of Action! A long road loomed before me, full of equal parts pain and struggle, promise and growth. But one thing was certain. I was on my way to becoming whole: a perfect alignment of Divine purpose, earthly mission, and newly discovered personal desire. I completed a four-year program at the Perkins School of Theology at Southern Methodist University in two and a half years. After serving as associate pastor in Churches in Dallas and Houston, I was appointed to a much smaller Church in Southwest Houston, which had recently been renamed after the subdivision that surrounded it, Windsor Village. Prior to the Calling, pastoring was not a consideration. After the call, however, it was a completely different story. I was clear about what God wanted me to do, and I wanted to answer God's calling with action.

I remember the first time I saw it, my first real appointment out of seminary. I rounded the corner off Heatherbrook Drive and found a quaint, yet stark, one-story sanctuary. The preacher was leaving the first Sunday in June 1982, the Sunday before my arrival, leaving behind a congregation that had dwindled down to twenty-five members. When I stepped inside the sanctuary on that first Sunday, the members of the congregation and even the Bishop who had appointed me probably didn't expect me, or the Church, to last for long. The Church was dying and some folks were basically content to let it die. It was, after all, caught in a "transitional neighborhood," which had turned from Caucasian to African-American. Worse still, there were already two large and booming Baptist Churches in the immediate area.

"Anyone who's willing to join a Church has already joined the other two, instead of Windsor" was the common consensus. Windsor had no choir, no music, no Sunday school. Not only was there no money, but the Church owed $54,000 to the United Methodist Church's "Room-to-Grow Program." The land adjacent to the sanctuary sported a For Sale sign — a last-ditch effort to raise funds to pay off the Church's loan and keep it in business. But this struggling Church still held fast to its most precious asset — Faith. Its twenty-five members had been praying for the Church to grow and for someone, somehow, to arrive to lead them with a new Vision for their future. But the latest in a line of pastors had departed without finding success in fulfilling the Vision.

I had found my Calling, the "Why" of my existence, my purpose in life. It was time to quit asking and start telling. We'd have to use our Faith, coupled with hard work, to revive our Church. As a congregation we'd have to develop and employ the principles of Holistic Salvation to literally save the ground beneath us or leave behind another empty lot where a house of worship had once stood.

We would have to turn the page on our destiny. We would have to make a Comeback. The devil surely meant for our little Church to die.

But God had different plans for our little Church. And, the Lord has awesome plans for you, too! (Jeremiah 29:11-13)

How do you know what the Lord's plans are for you? Ask Him. He will help you develop your own personal To-Do List. With that, you have an effective "operating manual" to tackle any size Comeback. Before we continue the journey of our little Church's Comeback, let's take a short detour by way of the next chapter. To fight to win, knowing what to do, when to do it, and how to do it are crucial.

Copyright © 1999, 2007 by Kirbyjon H. Caldwell

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Table of Contents

Contents
Introduction: The Miracle
1 Finding Your Calling
2 Staging a Comeback
3 The Faith Walk
4 Whuppin' the Devil
5 Creating Wealth God's Way
6 God-Blessed Relationships
Epilogue: Becoming Whole
Acknowledgments

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