Journal entry 021711: What about you?

John asked: Can anyone ultimately succeed in ministry if it doesn’t incorporate what they love to do and are gifted at? That’s a good question.

While running last week I heard a cool TED Talk given by Shimon Schocken, a man who lives in Israel and uses mountain biking as a ministry to young juvenile offenders. It was a timely message. The Iron Men have been talking a lot lately about calling and mission and path, and this TED Talk seemed to speak to that issue. (Of course, when I’m bird-dogging a topic, I’ll admit that, for me, everything tends to point toward it.)

The TED website gives this description: Shimon Schocken is the IDB Professor of Information Technologies and founding dean of the Efi Arazi School of Computer Science at the Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) in Israel. After 10 years at NYU, he returned to his home country to help found IDC Herzliya -- Israel’s first private, non–profit university. Schocken uses his other life passion, mountain biking, to teach adolescent boys in Israel’s juvenile detention centers valuable life lessons through challenging bike rides in remote locations. His TED Talk described that project.

When I hear something I like, I cannot keep it to myself, so I shared a link to the talk with the guys, who made several observations:

When Schocken was trying to persuade the prison warden to let him try his biking experiment, he said, "These are my principles, and if you don't like them I have others." He wasn’t being wishy-washy, he was being flexible, giving the warden room to say yes.

We should ask ourselves which values do we hold that we won't give up for the sake of reaching another person. I wonder how often we claim PRINCIPLES when it is actually our stubborn resistance to change. How often do we care more about being right than being gracious?

Schocken took a big risk leaving his tenured position at NYU and going to Israel. He took another big risk biking with imprisoned juvenile offenders. There was the risk they might strike out and hurt him, and the risk they might use the opportunity to escape on their mountain bikes while he was responsible for them.

It is impossible to talk about God’s calling without also talking about taking risks. This man’s choice to leave one challenging career for another is a great example. We all have many choices, many possible good directions in life, and we have to pick-and-choose. Following God is almost always risky.

Schocken understood that physical movement and shared hardship opens hardened hearts. Whoever taught us that our physical bodies and our intellectual minds were separate entities (was it The Enlightenment?) did us a disservice. Spiritual understanding is often tied to physical movement and that’s one reason Believers have gone on pilgrimages for thousands of years.

As for me, I am more and more convinced that there can be little personal growth without physical movement. I doubt I have ever had an original thought or creative insight when I wasn’t moving. Even my best writing - an activity that appears to be mostly stationary - comes after I have started moving my pen. I have to start writing before the good ideas come.

And another thing. For most men, physical movement, especially if difficult and challenging, brings us together in a way that sitting in a class together can never do. I don’t know why that is, but it is. Men doing something hard together become brothers.

“Can anyone ultimately succeed in ministry if it doesn’t incorporate what they love to do and are gifted at?” Again, it’s a good question, and it speaks to what Gary Barkalow calls the Glory of Your Life, your Calling, the Weightiness of your life.

Schocken turned what he loved to do into his ministry. What do you love to do? What are you gifted at? What is your ministry?


“I run in the path of Your commands, for You have set my heart free.” Psalm 119:32


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