Latest Posts


Dr. Stacy McNeill: God’s Calling On My Life

Dr. Stacy McNeill is a professor at College of the Ozarks where she teaches Communication Arts.  She writes of how her calling has shaped her–in college administration, teaching in the classroom, and in her role as a mother–and how God has called her to each of these areas.


God’s calling on my life has been revealed to me in several ways and over various periods of time. When I was a child, I sensed a distinct calling to choose a career where I would frequently speak to others. In my mind, I thought that might be work as a lawyer in a courtroom setting; looking back, I think this was likely influenced by a legal drama I enjoyed.

When I arrived at college, through classes in speech communication, I began to see the beauty in the idea of communication as an act of sharing with others, either verbally or in writing. I also began to see the gift of communicative ability as one that could be used for God’s glory or for Satan’s evil.

In further pursuit of this area of study, I ventured on to graduate school, where, for the first time in my life, I was surrounded by many who didn’t embrace a Christian worldview. My minority status as a believer allowed me the chance to attempt communication with others who didn’t see Christ as the Cornerstone of their lives. I experienced tremendous growth in this season of my life, and can see where God’s hand lead me to an awareness of the needs of others, spiritual and otherwise.

During graduate school, I began to teach undergraduate public speaking courses. This was supposed to be a way to pay for my postgraduate work, but became a joy. I relished the challenge of inviting my students to an appreciation of my beloved subject matter. My father was a teacher, Read More


What to Lose to Gain Your Love for A Calling

Fifty years ago, in the first part of September, the Byrds were in the recording studio perfecting the song “Turn! Turn! Turn!” It took five separate days and seventy-eight takes. Their complete album was released in early December 1965, twenty years before I was to be born on a very icy Friday night.

They sing To everything/Turn! Turn! Turn!/there is a season/Turn! Turn! Turn/and a time to every purpose under heaven.

It was a song written by Pete Seeger, but the words that inspired him were from the book of Ecclesiastes. Perhaps Seeger was inspired by Solomon, a man who sought after the meaning of life with fervency.

I’ve learned lately that the ending of a thing is often the catalyst. When you lose time, lose anything, it turns into a precious thing. And a calling–the work that calls to you in moments of quiet as the most important work of your life–often requires a commitment that can only really be made by people who sense that their time is waning.

So it’s difficult to tell this to a graduate in June at the height of spring, as well as the height of his or her opportunities. The good stuff mostly starts happening when you realize you’ve got only a few years or months to finish it out.

It’s not too late. But here’s the thing. There’s a time that’s coming when it is too late.

“When you wake to losing someone, you win love. When you realize that what you have, you will lose, you win real eyes. There’s a way to wake up and not live numb. The way to love life is to imagine losing it,” writes Ann Voskamp.

Several years ago I sat in my west-facing bedroom during an October dusk, the blueish-gold light shining through the blinds across to the stuccoed wall. I was thinking of names for this idea of mine. Part of the reason I called it Essential Story is because a calling reduces the roux of your life into a concentrated essence. What’s truly important, you know? What’s essential?

Am I doing these things?

So come on. Let’s get it right, you know?

I’m thinking of the conversations I haven’t yet had with my dad, my grandmother, my best friend. I’m thinking of the work that presses on my mind when it’s quiet at night and easy to think about the future and the past.

The sun is setting on this Sunday, one of the last of this summer. One of the last Sundays of this decade, for me personally. And I’ve got this sadness. I’m never really ready for autumn.

Who’s really ready to relinquish the height of a season so rich with growth, sunshine, when the food is at its most delicious? A season with wonderful evenings talking to close friends in the twilight, the cicadas singing and the warmth beckoning us to stay until we can’t see each other’s faces. So I’ll have to stop singing of summertime, where the living is easy, and begin the blues of the falling leaves/drifting by my window.

Solomon searched after the essence of life, too. In the same place as his talk on seasons–in his third chapter–he wrote these thoughts, too:

“What gain has the worker from his toil? […] I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil—this is God’s gift to man.”

Summer is ending. This season of work is finishing, for the cicadas sang it through a couple days ago.

I listen close, but I cannot hear them sing anymore.


Dr. Ken Sharlin: Attuned to the Art and Science of Functional Neurology

Listen on iTunes to Dr. Ken Sharlin: Attuned to the Art & Science of Functional Neurology.

Dr. Ken Sharlin is a gifted physician; he listens to his patients and their stories.  He is a conduit between the seemingly conflicting ideas of medicine—of science—and art. Between the math of systems biology and the meaningful relationships he cultivates with his patients. He bridges philosophy—the study of ideas about knowledge and the nature of life—with the life in one’s veins.

“I was very taken by this idea that the organ we hold inside our skull so much shaped the perception of the world we know and take for granted.”

Dr. Sharlin is comfortable with the complexities and nuances that are often reduced down in traditional allopathic medicine, details that are fundamental to finding the answers to each individual patient’s questions. These complex details that in functional medicine pave the way for achieving true and lasting health instead of taping over their symptoms with a one-size bandage.

“Functional medicine asks more fundamental questions about things like why we get sick, about disease.  It truly delves deep into the science of the biology of living …”

Ken Sharlin puts heart into a field of work known for its division between the human wearing the white coat and stethoscope and the human patient bearing the symptoms. To see him at work is to see him listening and communicating with each individual patient. He values this very much.

It seems less a surprise then to learn that at one time, he loved writing, loved seeing living writers in action instead of merely reading from those who had already died long ago.

Living, thriving writers—ones who experience, just like us, the feelings of mortality, ones who long to excel in the midst of everyday monotony, writers who might suffer the physical effects of disease.
For isn’t writing essentially the craft of voicing the mind’s ideas and ponderings of the heart into a medium of words that we can understand? Writing is really the fleshing out of one’s thoughts.

Sharlin’s job as a physician is one where he is put to task to heal the ailments of patients, a worthy duty that he performs with care. He approaches this with an art to listen and connect, to work with serving individual people through diagnosis and treatment. But he also searches what moves the hearts of his patients to put his treatment plans into action–where the ideas meet the everyday.

Here in our interview, I ask big questions.  We talk about how he discovered his calling–and that it didn’t happen automatically.

“You pursue your passion and make a career out of it, right?  That’s what we ultimately learn.”

It’s interesting that the word patient is from the Latin root word pati-. It means “to suffer long, to bear through.” What’s interesting to me is that pati– is the root of the word passion as well. Passion and duty both suffer, in a way. It is, of course, admirable to see duty at its essence in a person willing to sacrifice and serve.

Yet I believe passion envelopes duty and carries it further than it could go on its own. Passion for something or someone is willing to serve long beyond the reasonable time one is expected to. For passion is a fervent joy, a fueled happiness.  Passion is the heart and soul applied to the muscle of duty.

“But I think that there is this connection between the right brain, the left brain; art and science; music and mathematics.  And all of those kinds of seemingly contrasted things that aren’t, in fact, in conflict with one another at all.  They live together.”

And it’s in the things that seem like paradoxes or contradictions that one finds there isn’t really a conflict at all.  The complex nature of the right brain and the left brain is in fact located in one skull.  That poetry and beauty exist in the very mathematical theory of music.  That one’s philosophies on life coexist with his or her common routines throughout each day.  That healing is not only found in what we eat and how we move but in how our hearts thrive, too.  And that passion can coexist alongside patience.

All in all, our conversation was really fun! It is my sincere joy to have you listen to our conversation and genuinely get to know Dr. Ken Sharlin better. I trust that it will fuel your calling further to listen in.

If you’d like to find out more about Dr. Ken Sharlin and his practice, please visit his website here.  You can also connect with him on Facebook and Twitter.


Where a Calling Might Begin

I’ve lately been wondering where a person’s calling starts from.  I’m intrigued by the sparks that ignite a calling within a person.  The avenues to purpose start out in the most interesting ways.

I’m acquainted with this idea that being curious about a burning question can start someone on their quest for their calling.

But pain can do the same thing.

Pain and struggle are often efficient teachers, especially in the search for purpose and calling.  Read More


Calling and Commitment: A Conversation with Anthony Ashley

Listen at iTunes to Calling & Commitment: A Conversation with Anthony Ashley.

Today I am truly happy to share my first interview for Essential Story.  This is your first introduction to this project, but behind the scenes, I’ve had this lump of excitement in my throat.  You know how it used to feel when you were driving around, listening to the radio, and they played one of your favorite songs?

The first two split seconds you recognize it.  You know that feeling?  That’s exactly the same feeling I’ve had about this project.

It’s early January, and it’s just simply time. Time for things like this. It’s a lovely time of year, with a lot of opportunity and hope buried in the unsuspecting layers of our daily lives.  This time is also good for focusing, clarifying, and wide open clearings for deciding what you want to do with your life.

So a day last summer, I talked with Anthony Ashley about his calling.  Anthony is a writer, and has been writing since he was young.  He works with Boundless, which is a part of Focus on the Family.  He also writes at his blogs Iron & Iron and Flannel Beard.  Additionally, he works alongside his wife, Kristina, at Special Sauce, Ltd., a web design and consulting business they started together.  During our conversation, he talks about how he discovered what he wanted to do, and how that joined up over time with songwriting, web design, collaboration, and weaving constantly through his commitment to relationships. Read More